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.



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: Waterfalls and Water Flows

IMG_4099 IMG_4004One of the places we often go to while on vacation in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania is Bushkill Falls. If you want to experience the beauty and power of rapidly flowing water, scenic sun dappled streams and  get a great walking workout this is the place for you. There are three different trails which vary in the intensity of the number of steps and rough, rocky terrain, but my husband and I did the shortest, most scenic trail, not too bad for two 60 pluses, one of which has Parkinson’s disease. Here are some photos of our journey:IMG_3964 IMG_3979 IMG_3970 IMG_3981IMG_4055IMG_4042IMG_4067IMG_4025IMG_4073IMG_4072IMG_3971 IMG_3972

Staying In Focus: Eyes on Spring

A visit to the ophthalmologist today prompted the thoughts for these poems. With my eyes dilated and peeking out from behind my sunglasses, the colors of the green leaves unfurling on every bush and tree was a delight to see, especially with my eyes wide open.

I love perennials. Plant them once and every year they come back to surprise me. No one tells them when to start blooming – the instructions are coded in the tiny seeds we sow. Would that we could sow other seeds – of kindness, of appreciation, of consideration and love  and have them perennially bloom within us. Now that would be a sight to see!


Keep Your Eyes Open

a visit to the ophthalmologist

always an eye-opening experience

especially in early spring,

my eyes wide open to the view

of yellow and mossy and deep evergreen                                                                                                        IMG_3023

and every shade there is in between

blue green needles adorn the tall pines

and yellow green bushes arranged in a line

remind me to keep my eyes open to see

the beauty of nature surrounding me

the promise of life’s renewal each spring

and the joy and delight this season can bring!




IMG_3022                                                                      IMG_3032




We sow seeds carefully each spring

and look for the delights they bring

perennials will bloom again

a precious visit from a friend

If only we could sow the seeds

of kindness , love and understanding

appreciation, concern and care,

into people everywhere,

what a change this world would see –

and be renewed  –  perennially!


IMG_3025                                IMG_3026

Focus On: Challenges, and Gratitude

It has been a year of challenge for us, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better any time soon. Mom wasn’t able to tolerate the pill form of the chemo, and now, after a week or so to recover from that protocol, she is starting weekly intravenous chemo, which will more than likely cause her to lose her hair as well as having to weather the same side effects .as before – mouth sores, diarrhea and nausea.  We explained the situation as clearly we could, and she is determined to try again.

We are born with an innate strength to survive and hang on to life as long as we can, to struggle to beat the odds for a little more time. Time to be with family and friends, time to enjoy what this world has to offer.

When I wake up in the morning, the world seems full of possibility. I sit in my favorite chair in my “snuggery” and watch the sun rise. It does so, like clockwork, and everyday we can count on it to be there . The birds awaken and the sweet morning air is filled with their cheerful song. We are surrounded by gifts too great to count, and too often we fail to express the gratitude we should have for them.

Sadly, life, the greatest gift of all, is often treated with the least amount of reverence and care and we are bombarded daily by the news of yet another war, another murder, another threat  to our lives and our well-being. It’s no wonder so many people are depressed and anxious.

I look at my mother, at 90, facing the fight of her life, for her life, with a strength I can only hope to emulate as my disease progresses. Her current battle has me looking my own mortality right in the face. I can either crumble before it, or refuse to be intimidated, and continue to find joy in the things I’ve always loved – my writing, my  photography, gardening and nature, the joy I find in this beautiful world, in the people I love and who love me  in return. Time passes too quickly not to grasp at joy and happiness while we can.

Michael J. Fox once said, “Parkinson’s disease is the gift which just keeps on taking.” With his characteristic, positive insight, he can acknowledge that even within the diagnosis of a progressive disease,there can be  found a hidden gift. In his  case the diagnosis was a wake-up call. He was, at the time, partying a little too hard, his train on the wrong track. In his book, Lucky Man, he says, “I am no longer the person described in this chapter, and I am forever grateful for that. I would never want to go back to that life – a sheltered, narrow existence fueled by fear and made livable by insulation, isolation, and self-indulgence. It was a life lived in a bubble, but bubbles, being the most fragile constructions, are easily destroyed. All it takes is a little finger.” He goes on to explain that absent this neurophysiological catastrophe, he would have never have embarked on the journey he has taken, or been so profoundly enriched. I am not yet at the point of saying I am glad I have PD, but I admit I am more conscious of the gifts I have been given, and  am grateful for them. Right now, I am grateful for the meds that keep me moving and the researchers working on finding a cure.

At some point most of us will be faced  with a serious challenge. Some of us will win, and some of us will lose, but most of us will have fought the good fight and will know when it is time to let it go. My mother is prepared to take another stab at fighting this disease. With her fortitude, I think she can make it, but I also think she’ll know when enough is enough.  I know I will have a hard time dealing with that and I ardently hope that it is much later than sooner,  In the meantime, we will make the most of our precious moments, and  express gratitude for what we have, right now.. My gift to you, this poem, on gratitude: Take some time to think about what you are most grateful for, and  tomorrow morning, when the sun rises again and the world is full of possibilities, go out and find them.

With Gratitude…

For sweeping skies of crystal blue
And mighty mountains standing tallPhoto06_1 - Copy
For the new grown green of early spring
And the brightly colored leaves of fall
For butterflies and singing birds
Morning light and summer showers
For treasured books, filled with words
A special place to read for hours
For Christmas trees and twinkling lights
For gathering with those most dear
For silent snow that frosts the night
And dreams of peace to conquer fear
For delicate flowers and a star-spangled sky
For the marvel that is our universeIMG_7633
For the sense of wonder as we try
To unravel things mysterious
For the light and warmth of the golden sun
For ocean waves that rush to shore
For spending time just having fun
with my close friends, whom I adore
For the doctors who take care of me
For my family, how I love them so
For the best of times, most certainly
and for all there is to learn and know
And all the things still left to do
I’ filled with heartfelt gratitude.
                       -pc 2012


Staying in Focus: From Fog to Reflections

I’ve learned that the essence of photography is light. Most likely it is the essence of everything, but this fact is most relevant in taking photos of reflection,especially nature scenes involving, light, water and wind[. To get a special combination of light and a calm wind, so that the surface of the water is like a mirror is the trick to getting a good reflection.  It takes patience but it does pay off.  However, a slight ripple in the water can bring about interesting results. When looking through the lens of the camera, look for interesting lines,  forms and shapes rather than a concrete object  Often the golden hours — the time just before sunset or at sunrise, when the light is soft on the water is a good time to get striking photos. Catch the wisps of fog as they dissipate  Sitting by a mirrored lake, especially in early morning, as a new day dawns, can be a great time for self-reflection as well. A time to just be with yourself and take stock of things. Clear away the fog, so to speak.

A few years back, my husband Bill and I visited Connemara, the family home of Carl Sandburg.  We were able to tour the home,  walk the wooded paths around the lake, and follow  a trail through the woods to a stony knoll where he wrote the poem, “The Fog”.  How I admire the way he used imagery to describe the fog so succinctly: Talk about inspiration!  After our walk we sat gazing at the lake, letting go of stress and relaxing into the lazy sunshine of  a summer afternoon .

Fog (by Carl Sandburg)

The fog comes
on little cat feet
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

A while later we experienced heavy fog as we crossed the mountains of Tennessee. Here is my humble attempt at capturing the image:

the fog, summoned by unseen hand, rises from the treetops
in wisps of ghostly gray
and melts into the waiting sky.

These two poems came out of that reflection/inspiration moment on our visit to Connemara.

Path along the lake at Connemara, home of Carl Sandburg


Beneath the leafy canopy
we stroll one summer’s day
We pause along the woodland path
and watch the shadows play
As sunlight filters through the trees
and gentle breezes kiss my face
We know we’ve found  a refuge here: a woodland home, a sacred   place.                                                                                                  

Reflections on the lake at Connemara

Still Waters

The placid waters of the lake
reflect the leaves of green
my thoughts lie calm, like waters still
my spirit is serene
I let fly loose the tension then
let go the stress and pain

and in my mind and in my soul
I am at peace again.

Here are some of my favorite reflection photos:

A watercolor effect, I like the contrast of the water and the tree branches. See what  a little ripple can do?

These two were taken at the same lake at different seasons.  The sky was crystal clear in the autumn one, and the lake reflects the beauty of that translucent blue.                           
Later in Autumn, different lake, still pretty.

Staying in Focus:Welcome Fall

Each season is a verse in the story of our lives
— pc 2012

And so, we reach the end of the summer season and welcome the advent of autumn. Time to enjoy cooler weather, rake leaves ( and jump in the piles).  Our last home was inundated with leaves in the fall –  by the millions (no exaggeration here) .  We would literally rake leaves until we put up the Christmas lights.  Some days they would be falling faster than we could rake them up. I really don’t mind raking leaves, but that property was a challenge! We did learn an important life lesson, though: When you buy a house, always look up, and imagine those leaves on the trees falling to the ground in the fall.  Then run away as fast as you can! (only kidding).   I drove past that house one fall, and the new owners were out there raking, knee-deep in leaves. I was almost tempted to stop and lend a hand, but  I was afraid they would bury me in a pile of leaves!

But that is one of the rights of childhood – jumping in the piles of leaves their parents have just created. Why, when we grow up, do we have to trade the fun stuff for the hard work? It’s not fair!

.Having  grown up in the northeast, I am always surprised at how long it takes the trees to start changing their colors here in the southeast.  This year they are predicting the leaves may turn earlier due to weather conditions this summer. We were out in the Blue Ridge Mountains a few years back.  It was early September, still summer warm, but I spied

this one leaf on a nearby tree, brilliant yellow,backlit by the sun, surrounded by leaves clinging to their summer dress.  I wrote this poem:

It’s September on the Blue Ridge
and yet summer lingers still
the mountains bask in warm sunlight
no sign of autumn chill

but here and there a weary leaf
proclaims its work is done
and trades the green of summer
for the color of the sun!

Several years ago, we were staying at a Pocono Resort in Pennsylvania in the fall. Our room was situated overlooking a lake, and one morning the fog was thick but rising from the lake quickly as the sun rose, to reveal crystal blue skies and the lake, quiet and reflective, surrounded by autumn color.  This poem came from that experience.

The last wisps of fog begin to clear…


and the crystal blue sky returns. The lake, still and reflective, surrounded by autumn beauty.


upon the lake, in early morn
the misty vapors rise
and when the morning sun arrives
the lake reflects the azure
sunlight sparkles on the water
when the gentle breezes blow
the trees bedecked in autumn dress
reflect the mellow glow

we stand along the shoreline
lost in deep reflection
an autumn morning on the lake
a moment of perfection!              

Don’t miss out on the fun aspects of this season – apple-picking, making apple cider, bobbing for apples, pumpkin patches, hay rides , carving jack-o-lanterns,  skeletons, Halloween,  haunted houses, candy, Thanksgiving, pumpkin pie, turkey, The World Series, football, chrysanthemums and ornamental cabbage, scarecrows, crisp nights, sunny days, low humidity(we hope).  I could go on and on.  I love this season!  Does it show?

Wishing you a delightful fall season in this chapter of the story of your life .  Take the time to enjoy the beauty of a crisp autumn morning, gaze into that brilliant blue sky  and if you are near a lake, take a minute to enjoy the reflection mirrored there -it just may lift your spirit and  soothe your soul. And don’t pass up the chance to jump in a pile of leaves – just for the fun of it!

Focus on: Majestic Mountains


                    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

                                                       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 2003 

One of the things I looked most forward to on our cruise to Alaska was to see the mountains, snow-capped or not, It has been many years since I was among the mountains I love –The Rockies, the Grand Teton, the Sierra Nevada and I have had to reconcile myself to  the mountains here in the southeast.  The Blue Ridge mountains are pretty and I enjoy going out to visit them , but nothing tops those lofty heights of the younger mountains, thrusting their peaks high above the treeline, often still snuggled beneath their snowy blankets deep into summer.

And Alaska did not disappoint. We were excited to see the mountains from the ship as we explored the Inner Passage and a strip of land called Tracy Arm.  This was the most scenic part of the cruise for me and as I  wrote in my journal that evening, “I cannot begin to capture in words the breathtaking beauty that surrounded us today as we explored the Tracy Arm.  The vast panorama of the mountains as the ship slid by them through waters of a green I’ve never seen before was such a delight, my senses were overwhelmed by the vista before me.”

The mountains were snow-capped, with rivers of icy water flowing down their sides to form waterfalls which cascaded into the brilliant green waters of the ocean.  The sun came out (unusual, the crew later told us, as it is often cloudy there) and made the green sea sparkle as the light played across the surface of the water.We saw the South Sawyer glacier, which  I will write about tomorrow .  But for now, perhaps my  photographs have captured what my words cannot express. Enjoy.

the green waters stirred by the ship’s passage

water runs from top of a  mountain and forms a waterfall,which spills into the ocean

our first glimpse of the mountains








mountains capped in ice and snow
sing the waters as they flow
round jagged rock and stony walls
to form the frothy waterfalls
that spill into the ocean green
crystal waters so serene they sparkle in the bright sunlight
Alaska is a pure delight!
pc 2012

Focus On: Natural Treasure


Treasure all that life can offer –
Golden sunshine, gentle rain,
Birds that greet the break of morning
With a pure and sweet refrain.
Garden blooms of rainbow color,
Butterflies and drifts of snow,
Nights of frosty starlit beauty,
Warmed by light of candle glow.

Treasure all that life can offer –
Children’s smiles, lover’s touch,
Peace and joy and dreams and laughter,
We can never have enough…
Celebrate each new beginning,
With a song begin each day,
And your life will find its meaning,
And your soul will find its way.
pc  1998

Treasure is not only found in a chest buried beneath the sand on a pirate’s island, or in a store or at a rummage sale.  Sometimes treasure is hiding in plain sight, all around us.  We just forget to look for it,  I decided to take a walk and see what treasure I could find in my own backyard.

I found that treasure comes in all sizes and shapes, in a variety of color, line and form.  Some treasure has a sweet smell, some a prickly touch – and some you can eat.  Not to mention the sound of the birds as they settle down for the night.  A feast for the senses – a treasure for sure – and the best part of all, it’s free!  Enjoy this walk in my backyard.  What treasure can you find in yours?

the world’s smallest green pepper – treasure we can eat!

A perfect rose

“fairy bouquets” of Lantana

An empty nest – guess the baby birds have earned their wings!

the intricate veins of a Caladium