scenic beauty

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staying in Focus: Mother Nature, Master Sculptor

This weekend Mother Nature swept in with cold temperatures and a buffet of precipitation. We had rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow.  Needless to say, the roads were icy, schools and businesses had to close and many people lost power.

Mother Nature, however, left me and my trusty camera a gift – the sun came out on Sunday and lit the ice-covered world with a crystal glow.  Mother Nature revealed her talent for ice sculpture, and I tried to capture some of it for you.

with icy fingers Mother Nature

paints each bush and tree

with silver gilt she so creates

a winter fantasy…

then I await the morning sun

with rapt anticipation

as it ignites a crystal world

beyond imagination

-pc 1998

 

 

 

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: My Eye Upon the World

I didn’t get this polished and finished for writing 101, but wanted to share it anyway. The topic was to write about my most valued possession.

If I had to choose my most valued possession, I’d have to say it is my camera. Not that my camera is an expensive, professional piece of equipment, by any means.  It is a digital camera, a Canon Rebel XSi and I have several lenses for it including  a large telephoto lens. It takes excellent pictures. I consider this camera. or any camera that I’ve had over the years, my most valued possession because it is my eye on the world. It is through the lens of this camera that I define my world, from the big picture the smallest details. It captures those fleeting moments my eyes fail to see and it preserves memories in the pictures I take, giving me a visual record of my life, from childhood to senior citizen.(Now that is  a lot of pictures! ) My camera is the first thing I grab when it starts to snow, or a butterfly alights on a nearby bush. IMG_8548a Photo05_3I keep it close at hand to catch the light from the setting sun as it paints the color of the houses across the street a rosy glow.

a path of gold from the sun to me

a path of gold from the sun to me

It was my camera that witnessed with me my first sunrise at sea in the waters off the coast of Alaska.  It caught the plume from a humpback whale, and the play of light over the ocean off the coast of Scotland. From majestic mountains to a close up of a flower petalIMG_0015 - Copy, from cloud formations to bubbles in the sky, my camera and I make art where we find it, preserve memories as they happen, inspire my poetry and essays to Photo01_1 Photo01_2 - Copy Photo02_1 - Copy - Copyshare with my readers. I first became interested in photography when I received a Kodak Brownie camera for Christmas when I was seven or eight years old. My family began taking road trips when I was twelve, and each summer we travelled the USA, Canada and Mexico. My little camera got a lot of use. In my teens I had a rangefinder camera, but it wasn’t until I was married that I received my first SLR from my husband for Christmas. I still believe that camera, a Canon Rebel G,took the best pictures of all. I was leery of all this digital stuff taking over the world, but now I wouldn’t go back for anything. Digital cameras are amazing. Within minutes of returning home from vacation, I have my photos downloaded into my laptop, uploaded to Facebook, WordPress and Snapfish. I can run off albums using Photoshop Elements 10, make calendars and books on Snapfish, and have 8 x 10 s framed and displayed before bedtime. I haven’t really explored photography using smart phone or my Kindle Fire HD-X tablet but I imagine technology will nudge me in that direction sooner or later. Someday when I may have forgotten much of my life experience, someone might slip a book of my photos on my lap and the pictures in it may spark a memory here and there. My camera, my eye upon the world, is valuable to me because it  has helped me leave a legacy, a story in photographs of one who lived and what she loved. Here are a few more reasons my camera is my most valuable possession. IMG_0003 IMG_0004 IMGa IMG_0003aIMG_256a5IMG_2893IMG_3067stonehenge

 

SURPRISE!

SURPRISE!

 

 

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Staying in Focus: Cruise Setting: Writing 101

If I could be transported anywhere at this time,  I would choose a cruise ship. We have taken two cruises, one to Alaska and one to Great Britain. If you’ve never been on a cruise ship you can’t imagine what they are like, but I will try to paint a picture for you.

As the bus nears the pier where the cruise ships berth, an audible gasp can be heard as the bus pulls up, completely dwarfed by the massive ships. Looking up, out of the bus window, you can’t even see the top, just deck after deck of balconies, and each one representing a room. You cue up in line to check in, fill out a paper stating you do not have a fever and pass through security as if you were boarding a plane. But this is where the likeness ends.

As you enter the ship, you get your picture snapped and then either board an elevator or climb a wide staircase to your deck. You,  exit the elevator and feel as if you are in a hotel. Corridors lined with door to the rooms and suites are a bit narrower than a typical hotel but you feel like you are in a hotel on land. You find your room, small but space efficient and if you open the drapes you will realize you are not on land, but  on an enormous floating hotel. As you explore the ship you see a beautiful, wide spiral staircase, elevators which offer you a view as they travel up and down, gold accents, rich wood paneling, places to shop, a movie theater, several pools, a spa, an infirmary  and restaurants, nightclubs, and  a theater with a stage. There are expensive perfume and diamond jewelry shops, gift shops, and clothing boutiques. Outside, lounge chairs line the decks and surround the pools. Playing on the jumbo TV above the pool is a rock concert.

After a while, you learn what is on which deck, you learn forward from aft, and most importantly you learn the Lido deck is the place that serves food 24 hours a day.

But while the setting of a cruise ship is quite overwhelming, what I love best is waking up each morning, opening the drapes and finding myself sailing into the port city of a new country almost every day. On our trip last summer we awoke as the ship pulled into St. Peter Port, Guernsey, Liverpool, England, Cobh, Ireland and LeHavre, France to name  a few. I also enjoyed returning from an excursion and seeing that beautiful enormous “home” waiting for us to come aboard.

And one more word about setting. On board a cruise ship, away from lights and land, you will see the most amazing sunsets, sailboats backlit by a setting sun, the play of light and clouds on the water.I n case my feeble attempt to describe the setting of a cruise ship has failed, here are some picture s. As you can see, the settings are most spectacular.

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elevators

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The Caribbean Princess

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approaching St. Peter Port, Guernsey

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purple dominates the sunset

purple dominates the sunset

rays of sunlight stream across the water

rays of sunlight stream across the water

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the sun sets bringing an end to the long Alaskan day

the sun sets bringing an end to the long Alaskan day

my first sunrise at sea

my first sunrise at sea

 

 

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a nightclub

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approaching Cobh, Ireland

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Staying in Focus: Escape from Mount Sanctuary

ANNOUNCING the release of my novel for children:

 

 

Book Cover small

 

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:Daily Prompt: Good Time

 Daily Prompt:Imagine that tomorrow, all of your duties and obligations evaporate for the day. You get the day all to yourself, to do anything you please. What types of fun activities would make your day?

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http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/daily-prompt-good-time/

a path of gold from the sun to me You have to see this place!

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I awaken just before sunrise, after a good night’s sleep free of the crazy, Technicolor dreams induced by my medications. I get out of bed, quietly tiptoe across the room, and peek out between the drapes. The sun has just cleared the horizon and the beautiful hues of pink and orange sunrise dance across the waters toward my feet. As I take pictures of the beautiful scene, I enjoy total silence – no one would believe thousands of people surround me. As the sunrises, it reveals mountains covered with snow, their lofty peaks shrouded in mists. Small icebergs float by, jewels of aquamarine. Slightly ahead and off to the right, I am treated to the breaching of a humpback whale.

The day that has just begun will be filled with amazing scenery, more whale watching, maybe exploring a coastal town, say Juneau  or Sitka, followed by a delicious dinner, an evening’s entertainment, maybe some trivia in one of lounges. The sun is unwilling to set in this Land of the Midnight Sun and we are reluctant to stop for the day because this is an imaginary day and tomorrow reality returns.

I am reminded of a scene in the movie Groundhog Day, when Bill Murray, trapped in time and made to repeat Groundhog Day again and again recalls a far better day in his past life and says,  “… that was a pretty good day. Why couldn’t I have that day to live over and over…”

I try, on special days like these, to be present, in the moment, but as hard as I try, the day slips away, leaving only memories. I look at the pictures I have taken on such special days, and think to myself, was I really there?  Why didn’t I pay more attention? But I can close my eye and remember all the beautiful places I’ve seen and one of the most beautiful is Alaska. As I hold to the adage, “Think Big!” I could think of nothing bigger or more  beautiful, than spending my imaginary day in Alaska.  The following is  a poem I wrote following my visit to Alaska in 2012.

This one is a sestina.  It has 6 verses and each sentence of each verse must end in one of six words.  I chose; Alaska, glaciers, aquamarine, paradise, mountains, whales.  In each verse these words move around according to a preset form.  It ends with a tercet (3 lines) and in each of those lines are two of the six words. It is a form of poetry that uses repetition.

And Did I Mention the Water is Aquamarine?

a pristine wilderness, wild and untamed,  a place called Alaska

a land of bears and  bald eagles;  graced with icy glaciers

and did I mention the water is aquamarine?

our ship slowly starts passage into the fjord, a slim slice of paradise

we pass the silent sentinels,  the mighty mountains,

a sudden disturbance in the water;  we are in the company of whales

we spy a spout of steam,  a telltale sign, we watch for the whales

in summer, they come to feed on small fish off the coast of Alaska

fresh water runs in rivers from the melting snows of the mountains

slowly they move, ages old, ever changing,  grinding rock and ice, the glaciers

glow on a rare sunny day in July. We are thankful to be here in such a paradise

enchanted,  we watch the sunlight sparkle on waters of aquamarine

this is a color rarely seen – a translucent version of aquamarine

so pretty when it swirls, and suddenly,  there appear two killer whales

azure skies, the brilliant sun, running waters, crystal ice, this is my paradise

and a dream come true – long have I waited to come to Alaska

to see blue ice glowing in the fissures of the glaciers

and marvel at the snow- capped peaks of lofty, rugged  mountains

beaches are fine, but take me to the mountains

especially those that surround waters of aquamarine

crack! the sound echoes, as  ice splits from the glaciers

in the gold of the setting sun, the breach of a whale

I’ll forever remember the unrestrained beauty –Alaska

has all the facets of a true paradise

I walk in the beauty of this wilderness paradise

where wisps of fog conceal the tops of the mountains,

the leaves strung with pearls of morning dew.  Of Alaska,

I’ll always remember that incredible shade of aquamarine

and that sound in the night – the exhaling  breath of a whale

and those blue icebergs sailing by,  spawned by the glaciers

despite their age, there is a fragile beauty in the glaciers,

which is woven in the fabric of this natural paradise

I can hear it calling to me in the singing of the whales

as it  echoes through the canyons of the waiting mountains

and reflects in the waters of aquamarine

it’s a song of the wilderness,  – the song of Alaska

I came in search of whales, and the snow-capped mountains,

which rise in silhouette above the glacier icefields, in a paradise,

a dream taken form in aquamarine – Alaska.

Staying in Focus: Coves and Coastlines, Lakes and Rivers

There were some beautiful vistas of harbors and coves, lakes and rivers on our trip. The beaches of Scotland and Ireland are rocky for the most part, but the guides told us that doesn’t stop people from spending a day at the beach. The rocky coastlines have a wild, pristine look that speakk of ancient times, Viking raids, and adventure. We took a boat ride on Loch ness  and , no, we didn’t see Nessie, but I took this photo of a rocky outcropping and it looks kind of like  a prehistoric creature swimming in the lake, so that is my “Nessie”. Enjoy a cruise along the coasts and rivers and lakes. It’s a beautiful day to be on the water!

“Nessie”

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Off the coast of Northern  Ireland:

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Loch Ness, Inverness Scotland

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Southern Ireland

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