plants

Staying in Focus: I’m Back! (I Think)

I can’t believe my last post was in August, and here it is October already.  We didn’t travel  this summer, or do much of anything, really. I lacked inspiration.  Then we had some family matters to work through.  My 93 year old mom suffered through a second round of Shingles and required  our help in getting her to doctor’s appointments, and weekly visits to help keep up with her household chores.

On the positive side, we had a lovely visit with Bill’s sister Pat, husband Rick and son Matt. They brought us a grandfather clock , which had been a gift given to their mother from their father just months before she passed away. Before his untimely death this past March, he had expressed the wish that someone in the family would take the clock. We had a space for it, and everyone agreed that it looked like it had always been there. During their stay we browsed the bookstore, looked at new houses in the area, and sampled the fare of local eateries.

Our 40th anniversary was September 4th. We finally found a few free days last week to get away to the mountains to relax and de-stress, and celebrate 40 years together. I took some nice pictures of Echo Lake. The trees were just beginning to trade their overall green color  for splashes of color like crimson, umber, sienna, red-orange and yellow.

So I’m back, I think. We are about to start my favorite season, and it is a busy one. I am preparing for our Moving Day Event – A walk for Parkinson’s disease . Pat’s  Patrol (my team) will number at least 17 this year. And I am proud to announce that we have achieved  our team goal of $720.00 raised for the National Parkinson Foundation. This will be followed by Halloween,  Thanksgiving and, of course, Christmas, with buying gifts, wrapping, decorating, cooking, and visiting. with family and friends

So, I’ll try to keep up with posting (I wouldn’t mind a little snow this year. I love taking snow pictures!)

Here are some photos of Echo Lake:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Staying in Focus: A Beautiful Day in My Neighborhood

What is it about spring that makes us want to go outside and play in the dirt? Is it the warm, earth-scented breezes that draw us outside, or the warmth of the sun, or the intensity of green that brings such delight to our eyes? Or perhaps it’s the birds, filling the morning air with song, as they go about building nests for their families. I imagine it is life, calling us forth to join in the return of light and warmth, growth and change.

We had a lot of rain in the early spring months here in North Carolina. Everywhere you look, flowers are blooming, trees and bushes are lush with spring green leaves, the grass, a soft carpet of beneath our feet.

Now as we near the summer solstice, the bright green of spring is deepening into the dark green of summer.  We have had a few days of uncomfortable heat and humidity, but in between, Mother Nature has gifted us with absolutely perfect days of cool weather, pleasant breezes, bright sunshine. They are the kind of days I where I simply cannot go inside, intent on savoring every minute of clear blue skies and fresh air. In fact, this coming week has a few days predicted with highs in the 70s.

I know that soon the heat and humidity will fall on us, like a heavy wet blanket draped over our shoulders and our bright blue sky enveloped in a pall of hazy white. But, for now, I will cherish each low humidity day, pottering outside with my plants, listening to the chorus of birds in the trees.

I invite you to enjoy a beautiful day in my neighborhood:

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Staying in Focus: The Joy of Pottering

What is it about spring that brings forth the urge to go outside and play in the dirt? Is it those gentle spring breezes scented with the aroma of fresh earth and growing things? Is it the warm sunshine, the songs of birds filling the air, as they flit from tree to tree, building nests, or the buzz of the bees as they search for delicate blossoms of sweet nectar? I imagine it is all of this, awakening in us the realization that winter has lost its frosty grip and we are invited to join in the return of life and growth and warmth once more.

We had a string of perfect spring days recently, and I headed out to the plant nursery to buy a few new plants, and the tools and soil I needed to repot some of my houseplants. I move some of them from their winter shelter in my dining room them to the porch for the growing season.

When we visited the British Isles a few years back, we noticed clusters of small garden plots, most with a shed or small building on them, just outside the cities, and our tour guide explained that they were the gardens of city dwellers who had no space for a backyard garden. They come out on weekends or on long summer evenings to tend their gardens and commune with nature.

The British, who have the most descriptive and colorful words for things, call this activity “pottering”. What a perfect description for getting your hands in that rich potting soil and providing a new home for a plant, or planting a flower or vegetable garden.

I do not have a potting shed, but I do have a potting bench, and as it happens, being retired, I have plenty of time for pottering. Which reminds me, I have several African violets which could use some larger pots. Maybe I’ll wander outside and play in the dirt for a while.

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Staying in Focus: Welcome Spring!

Just when things seem their bleakest, some little thing comes along to chase away the doldrums and bring a smile to one’s face. I walked into my kitchen recently, where all of my houseplants huddle for the winter, vying for the sunlight streaming through the windows and happy, I think, to be inside where it is warm, rather than outside, where our temperatures continue to rise and then fall like an overcooked soufflé.

This particular day, a spot of color caught my eye, and I realized that one of my orchid plants had bloomed.  I am a sucker for orchid plants. When they arrive at the plant nurseries grouped together, I am drawn like a squirrel to birdseed. Delicate blooms in a variety of color delight the eye. A few years back, I wandered into the houseplant section of Home Depot, and before me lay a veritable garden of bright blue orchids!

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This particulate orchid bloomed for a long time. I had almost given up on it when it began to bloom again. The second blooming retained some of the dye, so the blossoms were light blue, and by the third blooming, the flowers  had reverted to their original white.

Orchid plants aren’t much to look at when they are not blooming, just a few large green leaves , but they make up for it when they decide to bloom again. This year they bloomed on yet another dreary, grim, wet winter day. Thank you, my orchids, for a taste of spring when I needed it most. Not to be undone, my African Violets are now attempting to steal the show.

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Since then nature has awakened outside. The yellow forsythia are shining like the sun, and the delicate blooms on my Japanese cherry tree are dancing and bobbing in the gentle breeze. And how about that Carolina blue sky!  Ah, spring at last!

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Staying in Focus:Re-springing Your Step/Mountain Weekend

Daily Prompt: Tell us about the last experience you had that left you feeling fresh, energized, and rejuvenated. What was it that had such a positive effect on you?

 

The last experience I had that left me feeling relaxed and rejuvenated occurred last summer, when my husband and I and our friends, Kathi and Don, spent a weekend at the Cabins of Willow Winds in Asheville, NC.IMG_3539

Although last summer was not exceedingly hot or humid at home, the weather the weekend we were in Asheville was absolutely wonderful. We were worried because the forecast was for rain, but all we had was a brief shower one afternoon. It was in the evening that we really noticed the difference. The cabin had floor to ceiling windows, which we cranked open, and the most delightful breeze of cool mountain air flowed in, carrying with it the sounds of nocturnal creatures, insects and frogs and the like. Those sounds brought back memories of the summers of my childhood spent in a cabin near a lake. There, I would be lulled to sleep by the nighttime chorus of frogs and katydids.

We took a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, climbed up to the visitor center atop Mount MitchelIMG_3526l and ate lunch at the restaurant there, the wall of windows providing a spectacular view.IMG_3527IMG_3478 IMG_3481 IMG_3388 - Copy - Copy IMG_3392 IMG_3426 IMG_3435 IMG_3437 - Copy IMG_3448 IMG_3456 IMG_3471

We went on a ghost tour, and walked through the botanical gardens. IMG_3542Kathi and Don tried their hand at fishing in a pond on the premises of the cabin and we made our dinners in the cabin. Last year was an especially tense one with family illnesses and other stresses, but those three days in Asheville stand out as a small oasis of relaxation and rejuvenation.IMG_3600 There’s something about mountains that have always had that effect on IMG_3586me.

Blue Ridge

the mountains gather round me

endless folds of smoky blue

and the sun ignites the crystal drops

of early morning dew

wisps of misty water vapor

wreathe a distant mountain peak

and I feel a deep connection

with the spirit that I seek

in the mountains, in the places

of the wild and the free

are the answers to the problems

that quite often trouble me

so I come for grace and comfort

and I come for sweet release

my spirit seeks the mountains

here I find my inner peace

-pc 97

Mountains

When the pressures of life build to a peak

Some people find solace in shorelines and sea

But it’s often the higher ground that I seek

For it’s always been mountains for me

When I stand on a ridge at the top of the world

From worry and care I am free

I sing in the sun with my spirit unfurled

It will always be mountains for me!

-pc’03

 

Staying in Focus on Flowers , Lunch and Friendship

Can you think of anything more pleasant and stress relieving than having lunch with two gal pals on a sunny May afternoon, surrounded by plants like these? We had  a wonderful lunch, bowls of chilled gazpacho  filled with crisp vegetables, salad filled pita bread, fruit tossed in tasty yogurt. We talked of flowers and planting, writing books and summer plan . We celebrated new relationships, recovery from breast cancer, publishing  a book, thankful to be together, to have friends to share the triumphs and the heartaches, and to be out to lunch with each other on a day in May like this:

Sing a song of spring

in colors nature renders

dew-kissed by the morning mists

petals soft and tender…

my heart sings on days like this

sings a song of spring

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Staying in Focus: The Merry Month of May

I was away last week when the merry month of May began and so I am a bit late with my May poem and photographs. May is my favorite spring month. We celebrate Mother’s Day, and my mom and I have our birthdays this month. 61 years ago on May 16th, I was her birthday present.  On May 20th, she will be 91. We are blessed to still have her with us after her experiences last year, but the therapy the doctors are using seems to be holding the cancer in her lung from spreading as recent medical tests showed everything stable. She is looking forward to the year ahead. as her 18th great grandchild was born on May 2nd.

In May, the lilacs bloom in New Jersey. My grandma would give me a big bunch of them for my birthday.  Here in the south, the leaves on the trees are still a bright spring green, and people are planting colorful annuals in gardens and around their landscape bushes, at the entrance to subdivisions, in pots and planters on decks and porches and patios. Some adventuresome houseplants move to the porch for a breath of fresh air. May is a month when life flourishes and the focus of our days is on being outside – walking and jogging, playing ball, swimming in pools and lakes and in the salt water of the sea. Barbecue grills fire up, picnics are planned, and boats of all sizes and shapes emerge from under their canvas blankets to return to the water for a day of fishing, sailing or cruising. May is, indeed,  a merry month!

MAY

Mothers and flowers and birds on the wing,

the sun warms the earth, the earth starts to sing

of sunny mornings kissed with droplets of dew,

while fluffy white clouds drift in skies of deep blue…                          Continue reading

Staying in Focus: Escape from Mount Sanctuary

ANNOUNCING the release of my novel for children:

 

 

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Although written with children in mind, the story is one you will never forget, a story of friendship, acceptance and tolerance for those different from us, of family and courage and sacrifice. It is a cautionary tale written to remind us how beautiful, yet fragile, is our world,  and how important is our stewardship of  it. It is  a story of  a boy coming of age, for readers of all ages.

 

Escape from Mount Sanctuary now available from the Kindle store at Amazon.com. It’s a bargain at only $.99. No Kindle, no problem. Simply download the FREE Kindle app  and you can view the book on your computer.  Here’s a link to the site:

http://www.amazon.com/Escape-Mount-Sanctuary-Imagine-discover-ebook/dp/B00JYJ5AZI/ref=pd_rhf_ee_p_dnr_2

 

On the lower right hand corner of the page you will see a link to the free Kindle app. The book will be available in print on demand in the coming weeks if you prefer traditional books.

Book Description

 April 25, 2014
What if you had the chance to discover the world all over again? In Escape from Mount Sanctuary, a young boy named Ke does exactly that. Ke has lived his life in special caverns built to shelter survivors and their descendants beneath the Earth’s surface following a cataclysmic event ages ago. Ke learns that there is an “outside” to his world, a world long thought abandoned. Ke is intrigued, especially when he meets a girl (Mira) from an outside settlement and a wolf named Tip, who possesses special abilities. With this pair of adventurers, Ke and his elder friend, Tuck, embark on a journey into a world far more wondrous, and dangerous, than they imagined. During their journey, Ke, a naïve young boy with dreams of becoming a storyteller, learns much about friendships and family, self-reliance and sacrifice. By journey’s end, they all come to realize that courage is not measured by one’s size or one’s age, but by the conviction in one’s heart. Their story celebrates the joy of discovery, the wonder of our world and the rewards of perseverance. It encourages its readers to follow their dreams wherever they may lead. It is about discovering the world all over again.

Staying in Focus : Spring and its Color Display

I love spring, planting flowers in beds and in pots, their beautiful colors combining to sing a song of life renewing itself with a flair we try to capture wi.th the lens of the camera. Here are my feeble attempts to convey their beauty from flowers received for Easter and those in pots and beds in my yard:

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flowers from my thoughtful nephew, Gary and his gal. Robin.

   flowers from my thoughtful nephew, Gary and his gal. Robin.

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pink geranium from my sister, Mary and brother-in-law, John

 

 

Staying in Focus : March, Don’t Miss the Marvelous

March

Nature is poised to reawaken

as anticipation fills the air

and winter loosens its fist-like grip

and we dream of warmth and growing things

yet fickle and taunting

this month of March

it begins in fits and starts

harsh winds blow and snowflakes fly

but , slowly, comes the moment when

all shake loose from winter’s thrall

and with sincere gratitude

we welcome the return of light and life.

– pc 2010

March. What can we say about this month? It is the month of windy weather – great for flying kites. It is the month of shamrocks and St. Patrick Day celebrations. Sometimes it even plays host to Easter, but not this year. Its name is certainly proper – we are marching through the year, almost one-quarter of 2014 behind us already. We try marching toward spring, but this year it seems we take two steps backward for every one step forward. We go from shirtsleeve weather to wearing our warmest coat and back again. Today is a perfect example. The weather is playing a game with the thermometer, hovering around 33 degrees, but dipping now and then into the freeze zone. The result – it even tricked the forsythia this year. My Japanese cherry tree has tried three times to bloom this winter, and this is what happens:

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I’m ready to wear my bright, colorful spring clothes, pull my spring and summer hats out of the closet and hang them on my hat tree. I bought a new one  (hat) in anticipation of spring. I did see a robin on the lawn the other day. That’s a good sign. Spring officially begins on March 20th and baseball season begins on March 31st. One way or another we will  find our way to April where showers bring flowers and rabbits deliver baskets filled with treats, and before we know it we’ll be looking forward to the cooler days of fall as summer sets in with its heat and humidity. I’m trying to live in the moment though, to be happy for the days I have, as dreary and cold as they may be. There is always something of the marvelous to be found – a blossom wearing a coat of ice, a robin hopping on the front lawn, mums and rose bushes beginning to bud, forsythia’s bright yellow blossoms adding a splash of sunshine color to an otherwise grey world . Hold to these gifts and the day will be a beautiful one. They all are.