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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Sunday Dinner: Abundance

December 13, 2015 CW 129

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“Plant seeds of happiness, hope, success, and love;

it will all come back to you in abundance.

This is the law of nature.”

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Steve Maraboli

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“Honor your desire for a new life.

Say yes to the small inklings of interest and curiosity

that present themselves each day.”

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Lynn A. Robinson

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“Love opens all channels,

while Fear closes them down.

Love facilitates sharing,

while Fear demands selfishness.

Love allows us to be exposed,

while Fear insists we be covered.

Love provides unconditional acceptance,

while fear stipulates requirements.

Love enables abundance.

Fear chases abundance away.”

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Donald L. Hicks

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“Making a dream into reality begins with what you have,

not with what you are waiting on.”

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T.F. Hodge

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“Gratitude is the key for the door of abundance.”
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Debasish Mridha

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“Herein lies the paradox:

If you want more of whatever it is you desire,

you have to first prove to the universe

that you are capable of having it

by developing a consciousness

that affirms there is no shortage of it.

The only way to do this

is by creating a vacuum or space for it to be received,

and the only way you can create a space for it to be received,

is by letting go of what you do have,

trusting that the universe knows what it is doing.

That’s the law of circulation in action.”

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Dennis Merritt Jones

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“You are heir to a heavenly fortune,

the sole beneficiary of an infinite spiritual trust fund,

a proverbial goldmine of sacred abundance

beyond all common measure or human comprehension.

But until you assert your rightful inheritance

of this blessed gift,

it will remain unclaimed

and forever beyond your reach.”

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Anthon St. Maarten

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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All photos taken at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

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Apples, Pine Cones and Artichokes: Ornamenting the Wreath

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What is beautiful?  What is not?

Our answer is often a Rorschach test of our own personality.

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Wreathes, a most ancient symbol of eternity and eternal life, come to us from deep antiquity.

We find traces of them in the earliest evidence of civilization we can find.  Whether made from precious metals and ornamented with gemstones, carved in stone, or woven from olive branches; wreathes remain symbols of celebration and commemoration.

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Wreathes woven from evergreen branches mark the winter solstice holidays.  They symbolically promise that despite the ever shortening days and cold weather, life goes on and the sun will soon return.  And we decorate these evergreen wreathes with the seeds of new life.

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Fruits, cones, berries, cotton puffs, nuts and seed pods, our favorite ornaments for our wreathes, all bear seeds inside them.  They contain the promise of next season’s fertility.

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The early Virginia colonists likely brought branches of evergreen trees into their homes to mark the  Christmas holiday.  But the certainly didn’t construct the beautiful fruit laden wreathes we admire around ‘Colonial Williamsburg’ today.

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To quote Theobald and Oliver, writing on the official Colonial Williamsburg website in an article called, ‘Deck the Doors,’  :

“Never mind that no one in the eighteenth century would have been caught dead with real fruit tacked to his front door.  Anyone hanging fresh fruit outdoors in the middle of winter to rot or be devoured by squirrels would have been thought, at best, highly eccentric by his neighbors. “

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The unique handmade wreathes, swags. sprays and baskets, constructed of only natural materials and lacking ribbons and bows, were first created in the late 1930’s; after the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation opened up for business and wanted to attract a crowd in all seasons.

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They were greatly admired and photographed.  Soon a contest for the most beautiful wreathes in this style evolved, and the ‘Della robbia’ or ‘fruit covered’ wreath style of Colonial Williamsburg was launched.

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In some ways it makes sense that these beautiful wreathes, constructed of ‘found’ materials, caught on at the end of the Great Depression years in America.  Wreathes in this style may be constructed very inexpensively with whatever may be at hand.

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They are also a reaction, at least in part, against the commercialization of Christmas.  They feed our romantic notion of what life could have been like ‘back in the day’ before silver tinsel trees and Christmas ornaments imported from Asian factories became the norm.

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But the truth is, even though wealthy residents of 18th century Williamsburg might have eaten pineapples and citrus fruits imported from the Caribbean colonies, they didn’t fashion outdoor decorations from them.

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And the Colonial Williamsburg wreathes today ask us to broaden our thinking about what is appropriate as a Christmas decoration.  Dried okra pods?  Skeins of yarn?  Artichokes?  Why not?

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Beauty often transcends the materials and shines through the design, the geometry, the harmony, and the  colors used.

The making of these wreathes is a 20th Century phenomenon; not an 18th Century fashion.  But they blend so beautifully into this reconstruction and reinterpretation of a Colonial Virginia town.

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If you find them beautiful, please try your hand at making a della Robbia wreath of your own.  Begin with a wire, straw or grapevine base.  Gather some evergreen branches or Magnolia leaves.  Bay leaves and citrus leaves work well, too, if you have them.

Then gather things you find beautiful and meaningful:  fruit, cones, shells, pods, dried flowers, vegetables, nuts and berries.  Use wire, hot glue and floral picks to build your design.

You might even make an ‘edible’ wreath of fruits to serve at a party.

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The trick is to express yourself and create a wreath which has meaning for you.  Create something beautiful to ornament your own home at the holidays.

The materials don’t matter, so long as they bring you joy.

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Can you see the face? All of the ornaments on this house follow a 'Star Wars' theme.....

Can you see the face? All of the ornaments on this house follow a ‘Star Wars’ theme…..

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All photos were taken in Colonial Williamsburg this December

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'Light Sabers...."

‘Light Sabers….”

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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December 13, 2015 CW 121

“A Forest Garden 2016” gardening calendar,  featuring some of our favorite photos from 2015, is  available now.  Write to me at woodlandgnome@zoho.com for details.

Shells in Christmas Decorations

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg

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Sea shells may not seem like a traditional Christmas decoration, but they certainly can be lovely ones.

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Shells are commonplace for those of us who live near the coast; especially those shells left from a meal of oysters, clams, or scallops.  These wreathes on display now in Colonial Williamsburg feature shells as an important part of their design.

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We’ve probably all seen scallop shells transformed into angelic tree ornaments and white starfish hung from ribbons.  The della robbia wreathes at Colonial Williamsburg incorporate many surprising and commonplace materials, including shells, dried flowers, fruits, vegetables, vines, cotton, seed pods, nuts, cones and berries, as well as evergreen stems and leaves.

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This wreath hangs at Chowning's Tavern, in Colonial Williamsburg.

This wreath hangs at Chowning’s Tavern, in Colonial Williamsburg.

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These are unusual and playful decorations for the Christmas season.

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I used shells and pearls in  decorations for a ladies’ luncheon earlier today.

My ‘vase’ held branches pruned from our Mountain Laurel shrubs, dusted with gold; ‘flowers’ made from Lotus pods; white seashells; and sprays of fresh Magnolia.

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Carved wooden birds perched in the branches of the arrangement.  Several of the small Christmas trees on the tables were made entirely from shells and pearls.

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Christmas decorating is far more fun when we can take a light and playful attitude. It is fine to change things out a bit year to year, trying out new ideas and revising old ones.

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Another Colonial Williamsburg wreath.

Another Colonial Williamsburg wreath.

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This is especially true in the fabulous wreathes which come from the  CW workshops each year.   Walking the old city streets each December is an adventure, as new and creative designs manifest year after year.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

A Colonial Winter Garden

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Those fierce souls who founded our nation knew the importance of taking care of business.  And their business always included raising food for their own family’s table.

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Our country was founded by serious gardeners.  Even  luminaries such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington maintained gardens, tended orchards, had fields of crops to use and sell, and raised those animals needed to keep meat on the table.  Although they, and others of their class kept slaves in those days; they still took a very active hands-on interest in their garden.

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Colonial Williamsburg maintains many gardens, but this remains my favorite.  It is a very well maintained colonial vegetable garden tended in the 18th Century style.

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It looks even more lush this December than usual.  But that is likely due to our fair weather these last few months.  It is a pleasing mix of herbs, flowers and vegetables.

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Fruit trees may be found around the edges.  There are vegetables growing from tiny seedling up to ready to harvest cabbages and collards.

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These vegetables are used in the CW kitchens.  They are lovingly tended up to the moment they are authentically prepared and gratefully consumed.

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We strolled down Duke of Gloucester Street on Sunday to enjoy the ingenious Christmas wreathes.  But as you might guess, I was distracted for quite a while by the garden.

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It was  a grey day, completely overcast and damp.  A few drops spritzled as we were leaving.  But it was warm and comfortable; a great day to enjoy the wreathes and seasonal decorations on every building.

I’ll share a few with you each day for the next few days.

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I’ve not yet made any wreathes myself,  this year. 

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But there is still time before Christmas Eve, and a dear friend gifted me with a bucket of Magnolia branches later Sunday afternoon.  We used some of the Magnolia while decorating for a community luncheon we’re hosting tomorrow.

And yes, there is a vase.  I just haven’t photographed it, yet!

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Evergreen Magnolia is one of my favorite native plants.  They grow wild here in Virginia, and my friend has a wild seedling grown large in her garden.

You’ll see lots of Magnolia used at Colonial Williamsburg in their holiday decorations.  It has wonderful color and holds up for the several weeks of our festivities.  One can’t eat it, but it decorates many holiday dinner tables and sideboards.  We spread it liberally around our buffet table and the beverage tables for tomorrow’s gathering.

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Which in a round about way brings us back to my neglect of wreathes this season.  Our  front doors are graced with old ones from ‘the wreath collection’ which hangs in our garage at the moment.  They are fine from a distance, with red silk roses and moss on a grapevine base.

And I just may recycle the Magnolia leaves off the buffet table into a stunning garland to hang round the front doors this year.  Southern Living Magazine has any number of fine projects featuring Magnolia leaves this December.

If you are a Virginia neighbor, you might have been admiring the December issue right along with me.

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It still all comes down to ‘taking care of business’ for our family and our community.

As modern as our lives might feel at times, our foundation remains in hearth and home;  friendship and family; good food and hands-on self sufficiency.    It is part of our heritage not just as Virginians or Americans;  it is part of our human heritage and a fundamental value around the world.

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May you take time for those things which bring you real joy this holiday season.  And may you take care of business such that you assure yourself and your loved ones of a very Happy New Year, too.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

Photos from Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

“A Forest Garden 2016” gardening calendar is now available, featuring some of our favorite photos from 2015.  Write to me at woodlandgnome@zoho.com for details.

Sunday Dinner: Hope

December 13, 2015 CW 012

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“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge.

That myth is more potent than history.

That dreams are more powerful than facts.

That hope always triumphs over experience.

That laughter is the only cure for grief.

And I believe that love is stronger than death.”

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Robert Fulghum

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“Listen to the mustn’ts, child.  Listen to the don’ts.

Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.

Listen to the never haves,

then listen close to me…   Anything can happen, child.

Anything can be.”

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Shel Silverstein

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December 13, 2015 CW 015

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“The world is indeed full of peril,

and in it there are many dark places;

but still there is much that is fair,

and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief,

it grows perhaps the greater.”

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J.R.R. Tolkien

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“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”

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Alfred Lord Tennyson

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

December scenes captured at Colonial Williamsburg

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“A Forest Garden 2016” gardening calendar is now available, featuring some of our favorite photos from 2015.  Write to me at woodlandgnome@zoho.com for details.

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Wordless Wednesday

December 3, 2014 CW wreathes 068

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

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