The wheat is long gone-harvested in June. Barren fields now stand where the Staff of Life used to grow; ready to be plowed and replanted come late winter.
The deep blue skies and brilliant, cotton ball clouds yield to the darker grays of Autumn.
Contrasts are everywhere.
Trees shed their leaves while hedge rows bear their balls of fruit. Rains drench the good earth where wastelands once stood.
Calves are putting on fat for the winter while squirrels are busy hiding nuts for the long cold season ahead.
Contrasts are everywhere.
Birds of all sorts begin their yearly migration to warmer climates. Rodents dig deeper tunnels and store up food for the shut-in days of winter.
Even vehicles are ‘winterized’ in anticipation of frigid temperatures and people prepare for the cold by exchanging wardrobes.
Contrasts are everywhere.
The last major hurricane, Michael, just made its way through Florida and up the eastern seaboard leaving a wake of destruction in its path. Too many lives are changed in a not-so-positive-way.
Communities gather together to respond to the crisis while strangers donate money and supplies to those they don’t know.
Contrasts are everywhere, and there is no way of escaping them. May we all engage them in a spirit of optimism and generosity.
Change can be difficult, but also very rewarding. May it be so for each of us.
Please excuse the poor quality of this photograph, and instead, focus on the subject matter. Next to the decoration with the red ribbon is one of our porch light fixtures (a bit dusty). It is approx. 5 feet above the landing. The light green siding is made of steel and is slick. Now for the anomaly of sorts…there is a black walnut balanced painstakingly between the light fixture wall base and the glass lens. We don’t have a black walnut tree in our yard, but a neighbor must. Nor do we have a ladder from the porch landing to the light fixture. So, how did the nut get there? And, why of all places was it placed there?
My guess is this little guy leaped his way to the light fixture and neatly placed the walnut for future feeding. This is a typical gray squirrel which are super prevalent in this part of America. Some regions have brown, red and even black squirrels. We simply have an abundance of these fun critters. They bury all manner of seeds, fruits and other eatables all over the yard, in flower pots and even on light fixtures. When they go looking for them, the yard looks like a mine field with holes everywhere. It is especially nice when they rip out the flowers and vegetables from pots! It really doesn’t matter because they aren’t that big of a nuisance, unless you want to harvest the vegetables you planted in the garden. Carson can’t stand them. However, I enjoy watching them play as they chase each other across the yard, and up / down and through trees.
As we leave 2016 behind and embrace 2017, I hope whatever has been misplaced in your life will be found and put to good use again…or, at least enjoyed.
We returned from Mexico (please see previous post) two nights ago. Cheryl had a wonderful trip, as did I. The timing, weather, sights and people were all terrific.
We did some different things this trip such as hike to the top of a jungle peak and rented a car to visit some coastal out-of-the-way towns near Puerto Vallarta. Also, we saw some unusual creatures in trees. Once you see one and start looking closely, you will see many more which were not previously perceptible. I am referring to Iguanas which come in different sizes and colors. Some are green with exceptionally long tails while others are an off-orange color with larger spikes on their backs. They all like to hang around in trees among the local bird population. They are sometimes referred to as chickens of the trees because there meat tastes like chicken-supposedly, even though their flesh is a reddish color. No, we didn’t try a plate of Iguana; we just read a lot about them.
Here is one photograph I hope you find as interesting to view as it was to witness in person. There were at least seven or eight iguanas we could see from this one spot. However, this guy gave us the best view to shoot, along with his feathered friends. It is worth enlarging!
If I could have the world and all it owns
A thousand kingdoms, a thousand thrones
If all the earth were mine to hold
With wealth my only goal
I’d spend my gold on selfish things
Without the love that Your life brings
Just a little bit more is all I’d need
Till life was torn from me
I’d rather be in the palm of Your hand
Though rich or poor I may be
Faith can see right through the circumstance
Sees the forest in spite of the trees
Your grace provides for me
If I should walk the streets, no place to sleep
No faith in promises You keep
I’d have no way to buy my bread
With a bottle for my bed
But if I trust in the One who died for me
Who shed His blood to set me free
If I live my life to trust in You
Your grace will see me through
I’d rather be in the palm of Your hand
Though rich or poor I may be
Faith can see through the circumstance
Sees the forest in spite of the trees
Sung beautifully by Alison Kraus
Music and lyrics by Ron Block
Photograph of Cheryl, Elliot & Carson
Inspiration from above
Today is Arbor Day in America. Arbor Day first started in Nebraska on April 22, 1885 due to the efforts of a prominent pioneer, J. Sterling Morton, and his wife. The focus on tree planting caught on and Arbor Day became an official national observance on the last Friday of every April. Trees, trees and more trees make me happy…that is, until I have to trim them, rake their leaves, clean up after storms, etc. Otherwise, trees are a diverse wonderment. They provide shade, fruit, shelter from the elements, wood for building thousands of things, plus sheer beauty throughout every season. ” The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The next best time is now ” Chinese Proverb
I tried so hard, my dear, to show that you’re my every dream Yet you’re afraid each thing I do is just some evil scheme A memory from your lonesome past keeps us so far apart Why can’t I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold, cold heart?
There was a time when I believed that you belonged to me But now I know your heart is shackled to a memory The more I learn to care for you, the more we drift apart Why can’t I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold, cold heart?
Hank Williams, the legendary country singer, wrote and recorded this song, Cold Cold Heart, in 1951 (he was 27 and died two years later). Rather than recite all four stanzas, I copied the first and the last. The two middle stanzas simply reveal more about the confusion and heartache expressed in these lyrics. As I gazed at the melting ice from our trees this past Saturday morning, I grabbed my camera and went outside to take several shots. For some reason this song-which I haven’t heard in years-came to mind. I suppose it may have been the cold temperatures finally warming and the melting ice which caused this song to arise to my consciousness. After some self-evaluation, I asked myself how do the lyrics of a sad ballad correlate to a beautiful act of nature…for it was a grand sight to witness the frozen tree branches shed their layer of ice and drip with the new life of cool water. The melting ice glittered like diamonds under spotlights!Slowly, almost imperceptibly, I began to understand the link. There is beauty all around us, but at the same time there can be ugliness, pain and sorrow. Paradoxical, isn’t it? Joy and pain, beauty and the beast, clarity and confusion-all can co-exist. Where love is found, hate is not far behind. Where peace abounds, conflict can be just around the corner. And where some relationships nurture and grow, others can wilt and die on the vine. Such is the result of a fallen world. But, alas, our lives don’t have to exist in a state of bitterness, heartache, failure or confusion. True, these are our realities at times, but they don’t have to define us. I am not advocating that we ignore the negatives for that is wishful thinking. As difficult as it can be at times we must face the trials head on, hang on to an anchor of hope (for me this anchor is Christ) and endure. Strive to find beauty in this world, even when you feel abandoned, are depressed or lonely, are being seriously misunderstood or may be grieving. Light will shine again; hold on and wait for the melt.
I shot this image the other day as the afternoon sun highlighted the trunks and ladder. After downloading this photograph I forgot about it until I came across it yesterday while looking for a different image. I was reminded why I took this photo in the first place: the combination of natural bark on multiple trunks contrasting with the summer-stained ladder was pleasing to my eye, and conjured up several thoughts about this tree (and trees, in general).
I planted this silver maple a decade ago near my driveway. I did so in an attempt to strategically block the view between our house and our neighbor’s deck which sits on a lower lot next to us. I also chose this type of tree because it grows fast and produces a reasonably thick canopy of protection from storms. What I failed to take into consideration was the proximity to the driveway and house, the speed in which it matured in size, the weakness of the splayed upper trunks, and the annoying seeds which fall like whirly-birds to the ground, and into gutters, and everywhere else they like to congregate. I have learned much about arbores since then.
The ladder story comes with a different twist. I found it last year at a home I was remodeling. It is an antique because of its round rungs and curved rails which widen at the base. When I discovered it, this tool was weathered grey and splintered, but was in respectable shape, otherwise. Considering the number of years she laid outside, I was impressed with its ruggedness so I hauled her home, sanded her down real smooth and gave her two coats of deck stain with water-repellant. The reason I leaned her against the maple came from a mental image I had taken in my mind when I visited Italy fourteen years ago. While in Tuscany I saw a similar style ladder laid high against a fruit tree. That ladder was much longer than my fourteen footer, but the iconic scene captured me because it represented centuries of fruit picking in a romanticized landscape. The net result of this memory implored me to lay my inspiration against my mistakenly placed tree. I can’t blame Cheryl for wondering about my yard art, but she was a good sport about it.
As I was thinking about trees and wood, I quickly concluded that one is created while the other is crafted. For the created, I thought how many varieties of trees there are. I contemplated the vastness of forests and the barrenness of deserts and mountaintops. I considered the elderly Giant Sequoia’s of California and the expansive canopy of trees in the massive Amazon rain forest (390 billion trees in 2.1 million square miles!). I recalled the unique Baobab’s of Madagascar and the palms of an oasis. I remembered the fruit and ornamental trees in my yard as I grew up…we had apple and peach, walnut and cherry, redbud and crabapple. We had maples and oaks, ash, and even a mimosa. All of these wonderful trees grew on a fairly small plot of ground. I think it was then, as a child, that I fell in love with trees.
And, for the crafted things made from trees, I got to thinking about all that man has made from wood: great sailing vessels and violins, ornate fireplace mantels and pencils, log cabins and axe handles , fences and spears, hangman’s gallows and baby cribs, teepee supports and toothpicks. Too many creations to name, but fun to contemplate. I think all would agree that wood is an extremely versatile product that has benefitted mankind since his creation and the need to shelter and protect himself.
Not wanting to overstate the usefulness of trees, but consider the creatures which make their home or derive their existence from trees. From birds and squirrels and monkeys which nest in trees to amphibians and insects which thrive in and on them, eating their leaves and bark for nourishment. They, in turn, become food for sloths and bats and spiders. There are many mammals which eat the fruit of trees such as deer, opossum and even our dog! Trees provide protection from storms and predators, and eventually shed their precious cargo of leaves or needles which carpet the earth creating a bed of decay for further growth in the chain of life. Let’s not forget the vast network of roots which stave off soil erosion or the process of photosynthesis through leaves which provides oxygen in our atmosphere. Trees are remarkable, aren’t they? I find them inspiring.
In addition to all of this, trees are simply lovely to look at. With hundreds of genus and a multitude of species, there is a size and shape and fragrance for every imagination. No one can deny the breathtaking beauty of deciduous foliage during the Fall months or the valiant conifers standing tall on a snow-covered mountain range. The special quiet of a forest during the dawn or the wonder of a single cedar standing on a rock ledge overlooking the ocean are undeniably some of natures grandest features. God certainly gave us a gift when He created trees. John Muir would agree. I hope you do, too.
Early morning, several weeks ago, I took a walk through one of my favorite parks. There is an asphalt trail which winds its way over a thirty mile stretch of NE Kansas terrain. It traverses a pond in this park which has a loop around it. The Autumn leaves were a brilliant orange in the awakening east horizon. It rained a bit the night before and there were puddles of water helter-skelter. When I came upon this particular stretch of asphalt and beheld the radiance of the reflected maple trees, I stopped instantly. I gazed at what I saw in the water. A reflection to be sure, but much more. I saw a season coming to an end. I witnessed a transformation. I felt as if I were walking on holy ground.
As usual, I had my Canon with me and I took the shot. This is what I saw…what I stared at for several minutes. The reflection was transforming. Water reflecting light. Light illuminating color. Black framing the subject without any particular order. And, a slight breeze which the camera did not capture, but which was a part of this scene. Only when the sun rose higher and the angle of light lifted from the water puddle did I move on. I felt different somehow for witnessing this brief dynamic of nature unfold before me. Winter was clawing at the door of Fall like our Westie claws at a mole hole-hoping to find his prize instantly only to be disappointed that it takes time for success to occur. I then drove to work hoping this colorful season would last a bit longer than expected. Winter can be so cold and drab. Strive to resist the exterior veneer of gloom…it has a way of creeping into one’s soul. Don’t let it in. Be positive, and reach out to another in need.
Fancy that, will you ! Yesterday was the fifth day of Spring in our region of the world. The temperature was in the mid-twenties and heaven decided we needed just a touch of snow to remind us that nature is a bit unpredictable. As many Midwestern folks commonly state, ” Welcome to our neighborhood, where the weather can change by the hour “. The wet flakes of snow attached themselves to the tips of grasses and trees to create quite a stunning scene. The snow didn’t last long, as it never does this time of year. However, we are ever anxious for April showers to bring us May flowers, and warmth, and color, and fragrance, and…(fill in the blanks). Always hope for the best!
Hope isn't an emotion, but a daily choice.
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Insights into the Journey of Life...
"The artist exists because the world is not perfect" - Andrei Tarkovsky
Words and Pictures from the Middle East & Balkans
An Occasional Diary of Everyday Life and Travel in the U.K. and sometimes elsewhere
"Io non dischiudo nè nascondo ma al contrario faccio vedere" (Eraclito)
"Literature is language charged with meaning." Ezra Pound
Steve's body of work spans conflicts, vanishing cultures, ancient traditions and contemporary culture alike - yet always retains the human element.
developing my photography in Moray & the Scottish Highlands
Photography, family and friends (+ Oliver the dog!)
My life in a snapshot