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 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!


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 : 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: Signs of Spring, and Poetry


No matter how cold and dreary the weather is, there is something in the air that hints of spring. Maybe it is that one day a week when the temperatures  creep past 70 and we decide to take a walk. As we travel through our neighborhood,  I see changes all around. From the crocus and daffodils that encircle the tree mounds. to the pink blossoms on a Japanese cherry tree,and  the full out white blossoms of the Bradford pear trees, it is obvious that spring is fighting to vanquish old man winter. We pass a weeping willow tree covered with tiny green leaves and  notice new growth appearing on our knock out roses. The yellow of forsythia helps to draw the eye away from the still sleeping Bermuda grass. The sky is blue and the sun shines brightly and hope that we are nearing the end of this long, cold winter grows stronger every day.

I have two favorite spring poems I would like to share with you. The first is by ee cummings:


when all the world is mudluscious…

when the world is puddle-wonderful.

–  ee cummings

I love the words mudluscious and puddle-wonderful!


My other favorite poem is Spring Morning by A.A . Milne

Spring Morning

Where am I going? I don’t quite know.poems

,Down to the stream here the king cups grow –

Up on the hill where the pine trees blow –

Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.


Where am I going? The clouds sail by,

Little ones, baby ones, over the sky.

Where am I going? The shadows pass

Little ones, baby ones, over the grass.


If you were a cloud, and sailed up there,

You’d sail on water as blue as air,

And you’d see me here in the fields and say:

“Doesn’t the sky look green today?”


Where am I going? The high rooks call:

“It’s awful fun to be born at all.”

Where am I going? The ring doves coo;

“We do have beautiful things to do.”


If you were a bird, and lived on high,

You’d lean on the wind when the wind came by,

You’d say to the wind when it took you away:

That’s where I wanted to go today.


Where am I going? I don’t quite know.

What does it matter where people go?

Down to the wood where the blue bells grow –

Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.

– A. A. Milne

I love the imagery in the first poem – spring and mud and puddles become mudluscious and wonderful to the writer. The second one speaks to me of childhood. A windy Saturday morning, nowhere you have to be, walking along, finding flowers and listening to the birds, imagining being a cloud or a bird flying by- it doesn’t matter where you are going, the important part is the journey.


To a child, it matters not if the sun is shining or rain is pouring from the sky. Both offer opportunity for discovery and fun. One of my boys loved to stomp his boots in puddles, He could not pass them by without  a splash. Certainly not to put myself in the above august company, but I also wrote  a spring poem many years ago. I actually sold the poem to a children’s magazine, but unfortunately the magazine suspended publication before my poem was published.


I like to walk out in the rain,

along the road and through the trees

I like to stomp in puddles then,

my pants get wet right to my knees

The water splashes all about

My new red  boots go squishy-squish

when I get home , my mom will say,

“You should have been a fish!”

-pc 1988


Wecome Spring!

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


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.

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Smell You Later: Grandma’s Lilacs

Daily Prompt: Smell You Later

by michelle w. on August 9, 2013

Humans have very strong scent memory. Tell us about a smell that transports you.

One of the lesser known aspects of Parkinson’s Disease is the loss of smell. I used to have a strong sense of smell, and I don’t know exactly when I actually began to experience a diminishing of this sense, but I do remember one instance that occurred when I was taking morning walks with a friend.  She mentioned that she put gardenia blossoms in a bowl of water and the fragrance filled the house. I tried this and noticed nothing fragrant at all. When I could no longer smell my roses, I knew something was amiss.

However, the greatest blow this loss has dealt me is that I can no longer smell lilacs.  I grew up in the house next door to my grandmother’s. My sister and I loved spending time with her. She baked the best pies in the world, always had time to listen to us, taught us how to sew and quilt, and let us help her turn the handle of the wringer washing machine, which squeezed the clothes through the rollers to press out the water and push out the clothes paper-thin. But best of all, she had a row of dark and light purple lilac bushes in her backyard. My birthday is in May, and every year she would cut me a giant bouquet of the lilacs. The sweet smell of lilacs is one I will always associate with my childhood – of days spent with my wonderful grandmother, of childhood birthday memories, of the anticipation of spring that the blooming lilac bushes represented..

I would give anything to have one more day with my grandmother, one more day to bury my nose in a giant bouquet of lilacs, and breathe in as deeply as I can. Memories are powerful, and fortunately I have wonderful ones of the lilacs to draw on. And if I try really hard, I can visualize my grandmother, and those special birthday lilacs, bury my face in those imagined bouquets and in my mind smell that sweet fragrance once again.

Staying in Focus: A Walk Along the Lake

upon the lake in early morn
the misty vapors rise
until the morning sun appears
to clear the azure skies
then sunlight sparkles on the lake
embraced by trees of greenIMG_0781
we pause to clear our minds
and absorb the peaceful scene
standing on the shoreline
lost in deep reflection
an early morning at the lake
a moment of perfection.
– pc 2013

Now for the promised virtual walk along the lake. When we arrive, the mists have flown and sunlight is in play. We spot a heron in the distance, rising from the deck and soaring into the air. IMG_0784The chatter of birds and the whoosh of the waves as they reach the  shore  are  a symphony of nature sounds. A line of  empty chairs gaze at the water and invite the weary visitor to rest and enjoy the viewIMG_0817. A lovely stone fountain gurgles nearby, and baskets of flowers hanging from lamp posts brings to mind a song by Simon and Garfunkel called ‘Feelin Groovy.’ I may be dating myself here, but I’ve always loved that song, part of which goes:
slow down, you move too fast
you’ve got to make the morning  last
just kicking down the cobblestone
looking for fun and feeling groovy..

Hello, lamppost, whatcha knowin?
I’ve come to watch your flowers growin…


In addition to just sitting back and enjoying the view, one might take a canoe or kayak out more a morning row, and give your four-legged little friend a chance to swim.


The rock garden and bubbling brook, with waterfalls, invite the birds to splash and play. If you put on your walking shoes, there are trails to follow if you have the time to immerse yourself in nature, and let go the stresses of life. Even a short visit, though, will fill you with appreciation of our beautiful world and the natural places just waiting for you to enjoy on a late spring morning at the lake.  I like the pattern the stacked canoes make as they await the weekend and a chance to glide through the waters of the lake, in the morning, under the sun.IMG_0806

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Our visit with our friends passed by way too quickly, but we had fun going to the design center and helping them pick out everything from appliances to door knobs. It won’t be long before they are back again, (for good this time).  In the meantime we will keep an eye on things for them, and send them pictures as their rough vacant lot is transformed into a lovely home and yard.  IMG_0256 - Copy - Copy

Yesterday,as I walked them out to their car at 6:30 AM, the birds were  singing a chorus of their song to morning, the sun was already on its way to brighten the sky, and the air was warm but pleasant.  What a beautiful day! I noticed our Bermuda grass was beginning to green up and shed that hay color it adopts during the winter months. The pansies are doing well, the mums are awakening from their long winter’s nap and the forsythia bushes in the back yard are quickly trading yellow for green as the blossoms fade and the new spring-green leaves unfold.   IMG_0270 - Copy - Copy

What I find most extraordinary is that most of this happens with very little effort on our part. Each season brings its wonders, just waiting for the right time to start the show.  I think we all have felt that spring was dragging its feet a bit this year, but who can doubt it has arrived now, with the cherry trees in bloom?

Here is my homage to spring:

when the cherry blossoms dance                              IMG_0262

spring seemed to drag its feet this year
reluctant to appear and so I took a walk
to see if I could find it
and I was quite delighted
to find a branch bedecked
with a mass of cherry blossoms                                  IMG_0261
etched against  a sky of  blue
a sudden, unexpected breeze
invited them to dance
and all along the branch
they dipped and swayed together,
to the tune of mother nature
that only  they could hear
I watched their show, enchanted
as the sun, a jewel of gold
cast its mellow rays upon the sprightly scene
my heart was filled with gratitude
and assured despite my doubt
that spring had finally come
with the blossoms , the blue sky
and the warming of the sun.
                                              –   pc 2013    

Focus on: Heed the Siren’s Call

He who plants a garden, plants happiness
         –Chinese proverb

A garden is a friend you can visit anytime
— Author Unknown

It happens this time every year.  At first it sounds far off, like a siren’s song tickling your brain through heavy mists and stormy weather.  But as each day passes, it grows louder. With the blooming of the forsythia bushes, and the blossoming of the cherry trees, the urge grows stronger.  As the daffodils and crocus, the hyacinth and the tulips push their sleepy heads up from their winter rest deep in the earth, the song becomes a chorus and I can no longer resist the call to get my hands dirty and plant some flowers. A visit to the garden center is in order. and today, with temperatures in the 70s, is the perfect time.


I must rein myself in and focus on some colorful pansies as it isn’t until April 15th that we get the all clear  — that frost is not likely for the remainder of the growing season and it is safe to plant our more delicate friends. But those hardy little pansies with their happy little faces do not mind a cold dip in the weather now and again. They will hunker down when the cold wind blows, then raise their faces to the sun when it returns. Today they were whipped about by strong winds.  March, it seems, is loath to let the lion go this year, and become the lamb as it is supposed to.


My mosaic frog welcomes the pansies


my dusty miller grew into a small bush last year. I love the lacy design

So after lunch, I went to the garden center, bought some pansies and played in the dirt for a while.IMG_0093

It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon. The neighbors emerged from their houses like butterflies from a cocoon.  As they days go by it will soon be time to put in the summer flowers, and watch expectantly to see which ones return for another show.  I hope the “naked ladies” come back again!  And if you should begin to hear that insistent song, be sure to heed it, check out what;s growing at your local garden center, and plant some happiness!


zen frog is back!