Author Archives: Elaine

Winter – is it over yet?

No, but the page for January has been torn from the calendar. It was a slow month, a healing month with lots of resting under cozy quilts – with days when I felt like a hibernating bear. winter quilt  The good news is that the big boot has now been retired to the closet. Another month of caution and care has been prescribed, but healing is well under way in my bones and I am grateful.

The month began with robins celebrating the New Year here. The large holly tree we watch is at the front of the house and the bird bath at the back. There was constant activity and socializing for several days until the trees were stripped of every berry. Something we note every year – they eat the berries they pick fresh from the tree and ignore any that have fallen.

robins

I tend to wake early most days and love to open the shade and watch as night fades away. Some days there is drama, others just a gradual lightening of gray, but always there is beauty as the new day of promise dawns.dawning

My small world has been enlivened with candle light candle light and more bird watching.   Days I hear the Carolina Wren even before sunrise, his cheery wake-up call is very welcome. We have many woodpeckers: the Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied and Flicker will all come to the suet feeder outside our kitchen door.

This is a Northern Flicker.Flicker Several days I watched one or two poking about in the lawn/field for the longest time. They did seem to be successful in their hunting.

My month of self care has been full of reading, stitching, tea and coffee drinking, letter writing and musings. I found my word for the year – Trust – and started a notebook for verses, quotes and thoughts. notebookI also received a wonderful gift for this time when I discovered a month long online writing course from the very gracious and encouraging Andi Cumbo-Floyd. Each day was informative and thought provoking. The material she provided will be teaching me for quite some time – helping me to discover myself as a writer.

I’m watching my indoor garden plants come into bloom. I so appreciate the life and color they add to my life.

 Christmas cactus

I hope your January offered fulfillment and joy. May you be blessed in the coming month.

Fast away the old year passes…

tree quilt

In many ways, I shall be glad to see the end of it, if only one had not got to carry the sadness of loss into the New. But so it is. Recently, someone expressed what I have often thought – “if only I knew it would be the last Christmas with _____” or dinner, or chat or card or letter…

As this New Year begins, my intent is to be more mindful of the hours and days and the time spent with others because one never knows when the last of something comes.

And, there will be more partings in the coming year I’m sure. An old friend is already clearing house and making plans to move many states away. The constant in life is change. How I longed for it when young, how I wish to hold on just a little longer now.

So, like every year I can remember, I’ll hold on to Christmas through its 12th day. Christmas tree

The intent to ‘keep Christmas in my heart all the year…’ will be an excellent resolution!

creche

Happy New Year!

ornaments

 

Christmas treat

old pines

A beautiful morning unfolded and the forecast was for the temperature to be in the 60’s F. Unseasonable and guaranteed to be a short phenomenon.  With my foot injury,our usual holiday plans have been set aside, so we choose an adventure with limited walking for me.

gull   container ship   Key Bridge                                                                sky   sweet gum

An afternoon drive took us to Fort Smallwood, an old county park near the bay. I would like to return someday and walk the trails, maybe fish from the long fishing pier, picnic on the grounds. But for today, it was gift to sit and listen to the water lapping the rocks, watch a few gulls, watch all the folks walking dogs and enjoy the sky changes.

We found the best parking spot near the pier for me to watch the sky drama unfold at sunset.

 sunset   sunset   sunset

Wondrous.

 

Tidings of comfort and joy

Christmas tree

If someone had peeked in a window here today, they might have thought I had worked so very hard on Christmas day, as I slept away the afternoon on the couch while carols played, tree lights twinkled, the tea grew cold, my book slipped from my hands and all was dreamy…

dreamy

But I didn’t work hard at all. I’m so very grateful for my beautiful, thoughtful, and efficient niece who prepared and served our Christmas dinner. And for my wonderful hubby who made sure the kitchen and dining room were cleared and cleaned.

 snowmen chocolate

There were wonderful conversations with loved ones far away and precious gifts beside. So blessed to enjoy this peaceful Christmastide.

Christmas comes

candleIt’s late on Christmas Eve. Only now, as I’ve stopped by this place with a cup of tea do I realize what has really been wrong this last week.  I’ve been cranky, and it’s more than the exhausting pain of two small broken bones in my left foot. It’s more than the clunky boot that makes it so I can get around somewhat pain free but will keep me from driving and makes the stairs a challenge. It’s more than the shopping missed, the cards not written, the cookies not baked…

Cookies not baked… the actual cookies don’t bother me much…

I ran a soapy mop over the kitchen floor – I’ll spare you the description. But the ‘lick and a promise’ clean-up in this quiet helped me to see what I’ve been missing, longing for — the portal. The one I once saw while the cookies baked, the one that even not seen, settles “heavenly peace” over my soul. Do you know it? I’ve been so caught in the web of my painful misery and this following on an autumn of loss, that I wasn’t looking for it. I wasn’t waiting for it. But I am now. I’m quieting myself, waiting.  creche

cropped-20161222_170231-e1482632221986-2.jpg Past the glitter, lights and fancies, the small straw creche with it’s array of wild animals calls. creche Everyone is welcome there: the tiger, the armadillo, moose, penguin, sheep, squirrels, fox, raccoon, owls, mouse, llama, elk, horse, polar bear, a lovely poodle and you and even me. The weak, the mighty, the feared, the loved, all creatures great and small come to adore their Creator.

creche

May we sleep now in heavenly peace on this silent, holy night while angels sing around us.

cropped-20161222_170231-e1482632221986-1.jpg

Joyous Christmas to you.

 

30 days hath November

porch There were glorious days, warm ones and cold ones that had me scurrying about freshening bed linens and garden beds, planting bulbs and dealing with leaves and leaves and still more leaves! Oak leaves 12 inches long!

collages2

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus by Beth Moore was only available as an audio book from my library. I debated and then reserved my space. When I saw it was 10 CDs, I wasn’t sure I would persist. But I did. her masterful storytelling kept me company as I dug and pulled and trimmed and planted a garden bed and then kept me company as I restored the edging of our old quilt with fresh binding. Then I listened to it all over again!

I began the quilt long years ago. When I started the class with Lois Smith, I was excited by the possibility of making – start to finish  a quilt for our bed. Under her kind, clear, tutelage, I learned so much about color, pattern drafting and machine quilting. But life, or a kind of death in the specter of fire, happened and rearranged our lives for a season. When it was over, nothing was quite the same and I chose not to work on this autumn themed quilt. I moved on and took several more classes with Lois and finished two more quilts. Sometime, I finished it off and hung it  in our family room in winter. Then I started using it, the weight and comfort just right. It was a shock to realize it is now a shabby beauty, warm and cozy.

quilt

Autumn color can be a long, slow, unfolding here. Tender plants first, some trees seeming to forget to change, high winds swirling leaves around steps and doors. Holly berries ripped from their stems. One has to look for the beauty in all the pain and dying of this month.

golden tree   ruby trees   trees   oak   yellow   lighting

And, of course, we went chasing the super moon. It doesn’t look all that exciting, but the chase was fun. One more to come on December 14.  November moon

squirrel Of course there are always squirrels running to and fro and sometimes hanging from their toes to eat the suet cakes.  Woodpeckers, Flickers, Titmice and Nuthatches are the usual diners. But one day, I happened to catch this Bluebird too!bluebird   Things are always a bit fuzzy through the screen and glass, but there is no mistaking the color of these beautiful birds.

One of the surprises of the garden cleanup were stalks of Hosta seeds hiding deep within a large plant. Hosta seed pods  I’ve done a little reading and I’m not sure I will try to grow plants from the seed, but the pods are quite interesting. Hosta seed pods

This season of apparent dying and seed planting has been brought home to me these past days in the sudden and untimely death of my niece-in-love. At the several services we attended, even her pastor, who knew her well, marveled at the packed church as people came to show their love and respect for this lovely, quiet woman. She sowed seeds of love and acceptance in everyone she met. I pray that those seeds will bear much fruit in the coming days and years as her family struggles with her death and the changes in the home and for her children who were being home schooled.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.

tree

October Days

tree

“The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

Just a few more things as we leave this October…

tree   This tree. I can see it across the field, leaves all a-quiver even on the calmest days. Like a Quaking Aspen. Golden leaves in autumn, like an Aspen. I used to think that was its identity and I waited for it to grow into the white bark. But it didn’t. And actually, when I really looked at them, the leaves are all wrong for a Quaking Aspen – too rough around the edges. It is possibly a Bigtooth Aspen or maybe even an Eastern Cottonwood. But, no doubt , it belongs to the genus Populus with its quivering leaves.  As tall as it has grown, It is impossible to see the catkins in spring, so I may never really know. But then, I don’t need to know its formal name. I can just enjoy this happy tree, so sensitive to the slightest breeze.

mushroom   This is actually not an October find, but I just need to share it!  We went to the park down by the river and I spotted this as we pulled into the parking space. As large as a good sized cauliflower and nestled as the base of an oak tree. Cauliflower mushroom is its actual name and they are edible. Best harvested when white, cleaned thoroughly and cooked. Maybe next year! My research says that they tend to colonize in the same area year after year. Oh, and they are related to the Hen of the Woods mushrooms that you can find in your grocery store. wood ear

Loch RavenI hadn’t driven through the reservoir in a while. But on a particularly lovely day, I stopped. I have several observation points along the portion that allows parking. When I first stopped, I spotted a goose who appeared to be the watchman. He stood in one place for the longest time while the other birds foraged. A car pulled up and that drew all the ducks to the curb, looking for a bit of bread to go with the bugs, I suppose, They were disappointed and had quite a lot to say about it. I moved on down the drive to a more quiet stretch, to have a bit of forest quiet and my own lunch.

Carolina wren   Our house wrens fly south come fall, but then the chubby little  Carolina wren makes itself known. They sing loudly! And they mimic other birds’ songs and calls. They are almost always busy flitting about under the shrubbery and shy away from having their picture taken. I was happy to catch this one!

Last Friday, my hubby came home from an early morning meeting and couldn’t wait to show me photos he had taken before the dawn. A sliver of moon and Jupiter! Beautiful. We made plans to go back to that site and watch for the sunrise on Saturday. With coffee and a breakfast nibble, we waited. Of course, the sky is never the same two days in a row. The moon was slimmer and paler and Jupiter was moving farther in its course, but it was a lovely adventure all the same.

                 sunrise  sunrise   20161029_072431

Everyday things really are amazing in variety and complexity.

maple tree

“I”m trying as hard as I can.”

Those words were spoken quite a few years ago by my young niece at a tea party as she checked herself on her manners. Many days they seem appropriate for me to speak about my life and intentions.

The beginning of October, Pastor Di wrote her blogging plan for the month would be “31 days of Paying Attention.” While I cannot hope to imitate her writing in even a small way, I did think it would be an easy focus to get me back on track writing.  After all, I notice, I pay attention, I think about things. YOU notice that I have no posts for October. Somehow my paying attention became a serious introspection that required processing, sifting and interpreting.

ear;y morning

Even simple things like the early mornings and dark evenings that I love, became thought provoking. So, I’m finishing out the month with a few observations, a few attempts to notice, to pay attention.

  1.   candle light   Looking down into the clear glass jar, I see the illusion of light trapped by sold walls. One of the meanings of my name is light. It is easy for me to feel like light trapped. We are all meant to be light carriers. To shine. To brighten the darkness. And I wonder if I do.

day lily2.   One morning I stepped outside to cut a last bloom for the table, I glanced at the Elephant Ears with all the veins and shading of green glowing. Then I noticed the mist had settled like a dusting of silver.  elephant earSo beautiful and different from the large beads that usually form. I began to look through the garden and noticed other changes. Like the “skin” of the aged leaves no longer supported the droplets has they had.

leaf collage

3.   I confess: I much, much, prefer coffee to tea. But tea does have a small place in my life and cupboard. I like the thought of taking tea, but I don’t actually like tea. And I have tried many. Loose teas, tea bags. Fancy tea rooms, kitchen tables. Green, white, red, black, fermented…

I have lovely tea friends who gift me with tea cups and accessories, all of which makes tea time charming. And Dear Aunt Dolly, urged me to take the family spooner, so many years ago. spooner  It holds a small assortment of silvery spoons from family kitchens, long closed.  All at the ready for tea time.

I grew up in a tea drinking family. Teabags were common and easily discarded in trash or compost. And a great annoyance if by chance one burst open or one slipped from a dish and left a stain. Recently, I became aware that people were paying attention to those insignificant tea bags! They were looking closely at the construction and the dyed fiber of them. They were noticing even how the drying stains could be art! Hmm, I had to see for myself, so I began drinking tea, or at least boiling water and soaking tea bags.  tea bags Different teas, herbs, spices – it was intriguing. While they dried, I watched tea bag artists on YouTube! Then, I hunted up my stamping supplies and tried my hand at a simple project.card making

And I made a note card. One.  note card  I wrote a note and sent it off to an artist. Have you looked at a tea bag lately?

4.   A pathetic photograph of the charming Woolly Bear – Woolly Bear  Those fuzzy, wuzzy fall caterpillars, thought to predict winter weather. A friend mentioned that he had seen one. It made me realize that I had not seen one in a while. Pyrrharctia Isabella (Isabella Tiger Moth). A little research and I am amazed! These woolly creatures emerge in the fall and look for a dark and sheltered place to hang out over winter — FROZEN! True! They freeze solid and survive because they are designed with cryoprotectant in the tissues! I love knowing this! And yes, this deserves lots of !!!!! I’m on the look-out for Woolly Bears now.

autumn

5.   A post on Instagram asked for our earliest memories of Trick or Treat. The flashback was immediate. I was perhaps 6, maybe 7. Dad had walked my younger sister and I down the street, we visited some neighbors and collected our loot in those scary looking paper mache pumpkins of those days.  I loved dressing up in costume and for some reason, I think I was dressed as a gypsy in a fancy skirt and bolero.  Even with street lights, it was very dark as there were still some leaves on the trees.  We walked as far as the Rosenburger’s home almost at the end of our long block. It was very large and on a very large lot, bigger than any other on the street. The Rosenburger’s  were very elderly and I hope they enjoyed our childish visit.

As we turned from the door to walk down the steps, well, that was when it happened.

I became aware, alert, enthralled, if you will, with the darkness, the windy darkness and the swirling, rustling dry leaves. I hear some folk don’t like to hear the wind, do you?  On that night, so very long ago, in the mystery of wind, it became my friend.

There was strong wind the other day, so I stepped outside. The dry leaves swirled around my feet, whispering. And the wind wrapped itself around me like a shawl and I was 6 again.

leaves and needles

 

 

 

Thinking about September

sky

I read and ponder this quote from Frederick Buechner:  “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” 

violet

September is like January – a new year – for me. September was full of birthdays when I was young. A new school year usually brought anxiety calmed with new notebooks and writing instruments and outside school activities.

cupcake

There are far fewer people to celebrate their September birthdays in family and among friends, leaving only my cousin and I to celebrate our mutual date.

 My mother used to speak of things that ‘had fallen by the wayside.’ Trees have fallen here. This one caused the death of our cherry tree and now cherry pie in June has ‘fallen by the wayside’.

fallen tree

 Two friends died, suddenly, like great trees fallen from our lives. And we mourn.

 squirrel   deer   Carolina Wren

Squirrels gather black walnuts, deer stroll through – eating the gardens when I’m not looking and the Carolina Wren draws me to the windows early in the morning  as if to remind me, ‘there are new mercies for each new day, open your eyes, Elaine. Wonder abounds, be grateful!’

day lily   hydrangea

swing

Cooler weather finally arrived, the lighting changed and autumn arrived. And I enter in, reflective, pondering. Taking more notice of the moments. Before they are fallen by the wayside.

autumn sign

 

Garden Notes

calla lily

September 20, 2014  I wrote about discovering seed pods in my neglected pot of Calla Lilies.calla lily seeds

July, 2015, I wrote of sprouted seeds.
calla lilies

Last fall, we moved the pot of sprouts into the garage where they would not freeze. In the spring, we rolled the pot out and up steps to where the plants would be seen and watered.

And we waited.

Our sprouts popped up and flourished. Sort of. We have a great pot of leaves. But no blooms.

Calla leaves

Around July, I did some research. Too late, I found that they don’t like to be all cozy but needed to be given some space when you plant them. I would need to use more pots or space in the gardens.

Soon, we’ll move the pot back down the steps and into the garage. I hope the tubers have strengthened and  will overwinter again. If they do, then next year, I will follow instructions and give them all room to grow and hope for bloom.

Colocasia

Another note: Last fall, I dug up the Elephant Ear bulb and found 3 offsets, which I saved.  They managed to survive the winter cast onto the pot where the Calla Lilies slept.  Potted up, they sprouted and have grown well.  Previous years, I was not successful in keeping the bulb over winter, so this was great fun.            Colocasia The “ears” wiggle in the slightest breeze.

 Elephant ear

Rain and dew collect on the fleshy leaves and I’ve seen butterflies stop for a drink but they are much to quick for me to capture to share here.

Note #3: An odd sighting on the grounds. We have a bird bottle from Williamsburg, VA nailed up by the wood shed near our driveway. I’m used to wrens nesting in it twice each summer. However, the other week as we were driving out, I looked up and saw something quite startling — and certainly not a bird! You can click on the picture for a better look.bird bottle

So many things happen from day to day, it’s good to take note. One never knows just what might happen next in a wild, living community!