Unexpected Treats

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Yesterday while relaxing on the couch it occurred to me that the tide was up, the heat and humidity were down, and no storms were in the forecast.   As if catapulted from my seat with this revelation, I made a dash for my camera, life-jacket and paddle and down to the creek I went.  It is rare that I sail out on my own, but sometimes that’s the best way to observe nature and just enjoy the serenity of the creek.

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“Rivendell”

The first unexpected sight I came upon was of a beaver dam.  I’ve heard the beavers slap their tail before when entering their territory, but had still yet to see one.  Yesterday was my first sighting of any dam, so I was excited to be able to see it up close.  I heard the warning slap of the tail when I ventured back for more pictures later, but still never caught a glimpse of the owner of the slapping tail and decided to take his warning seriously, paddling away after a few pictures.  I had been hoping to get a picture of the beaver himself, but they are elusive little characters.

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beaver dam

Further down the creek I spied a squirrel grabbing a small branch to take away to its nesting spot.  He froze when he came up out of his hole and saw me, so I was able to capture some cute pictures of him peeking out.

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I watched as ospreys circled the creek looking for their next meal and observed a smaller bird giving chase to a large flying insect, catching up to it eventually and carrying it back to  its nest.  The butterflies were out flitting about the plant life on the banks, seeming to enjoy the day as much as I was, while numerous dragonflies skimmed the water in every direction in search of insects. Yes, the creek was full of life visually and audibly and I was ever so glad to be out there among it.

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osprey

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magnolia tree gracing the creek bank

On my way back I caught a glimpse of a great blue heron perched atop a large, dead tree in the creek preening its feathers.  I’ve never been able to get that close to a heron without them noticing and immediately taking flight…screaming insults at me all the while, of course.  This heron broke all the rules and sat there after preening for at least five minutes while I let the boat simply drift around as I took pictures.  Finally he or she had enough of modeling and took flight across the creek, but the unexpected photography session was definitely a treat!

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Preening

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After getting back from my rewarding time on the creek, it was still too beautiful to go inside, so I decided to linger by the creek on a bench enjoying a cup of afternoon coffee. My husband joined me, and then we actually spotted him above the water-finally!

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beaver

My last unexpected treat was getting a close up glimpse of a green heron.  In our six years here I have only spotted it once, and that from very far away.  The pictures I got are blurry as I had to shoot as soon as I saw him, but I was very happy to finally see him nonetheless.

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For a much better visual of him and to read more about this particular heron and others check out this link .

Until next time, wishing you unexpected treats as you explore your own beautiful corner of the world!

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∼Jen

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∗ A very informative link on Great blue herons

 

Lines Written in Early Spring

 

Lines Written in Early Spring

By William Wordsworth

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I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

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To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

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Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

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The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

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The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

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If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

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Until next time,

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∼Jen

First Kayak Ride of Spring

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Heaven reached down to kiss me yesterday with the convergence of my schedule, my son’s schedule, the tide schedule, and a gorgeous, mild-temperature spring day….all perfect for a mid-afternoon kayak outing.

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The sky was a cloudless blue, the perfect backdrop for the emergence of new leaves budding out next to the evergreens, which brave the winter months gracing us with their beauty  year round…

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My son wanted to head for the nearest little island in the creek, which he and his older brother have enjoyed exploring since we first moved here.  It is a perfect nesting spot for  geese, and evidence was spotted of that before we even disembarked….

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We were fortunate enough to spot the first egg of the clutch, and hopefully not the last.  We’ll come back to check the progress next week and maybe catch mama laying on them as we did a few years back.  The female goose lays eggs about 36 hours apart, and can lay anywhere from two-ten eggs per breeding season.  The incubation period is 28-30 days, so we should certainly get a glimpse of mama at some point during that time.

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The little island is carpeted with luscious, emerald moss decorated with newly fallen red maple buds-mama goose certainly has good taste in homes…

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On our return trip we were treated to “Harold” or perhaps “Henrietta.” Either way, it is always a surprising delight when he or she appears from nowhere, squawking its displeasure at us for daring to enter its domain.

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The houseboat, which appeared at Thanksgiving time two years ago, is still gracing the creek with its presence …

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I would love to get a peek inside this home, and can only imagine how peaceful it must be to live literally on the water.  I am blessed enough, though, to be able to live next to it and am always thankful to be a witness to the wonders of nature the creek brings in all of its seasons.

Until next time, happy spring to those of you in this hemisphere!

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∼Jen

 

A Seaside Winter Walk

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New Year’s Day promised to be a beautiful 60 degrees outside, so my husband, younger son and I decided to head to the beach for a winter’s walk.  We began at our favorite little cafe in Lewis, Olive and Oats, then fortified with a delicious lunch, which included the obligatory black-eyed peas, we headed to the Cape.

 

Below is the beautiful boardwalk towards the beginning of the trail…

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leading to the spectacular scenery just beyond and along the path.

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colorful marsh
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egrets
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gulls and egrets with WWII lookout tower in background

All along the path were the subdued and peaceful colors of winter, and many other friendly New Year’s Day walkers/cyclists as well.

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escaping the crowd

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Before exiting the park, we happened upon the white-tailed deer, always very plentiful here…

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white-tailed deer fawn
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grazing in playing field

One last look at the sea, then back home to a cozy fire and the promise of more winter walks ahead.

Until next time,

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∼ Jen

Tree-top Lunch

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Saturday was a beautiful, perfect-cycling-weather kind of day.  I was mindlessly pedaling along, smiling peacefully, taking in all the natural serenity surrounding me on one of the first gorgeous days of fall.

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Not far up ahead a group was pulled off to the side, looking up into a tree-top.  Oh, wow, was I ever glad I made a vow to never cycle without my camera again!  I pulled over to join them, and as quietly and quickly as I could, pulled the camera out with record speed.  I was so concerned he was going to fly before I could focus, and equally concerned I would send him flying with my movements.

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My concerns were unfounded as he was happily enjoying a feast fit for an eagle…no movement of mine or any other new-comers were apt to disturb him from finishing his lunch.

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I did get pictures of him eating, but I’ve spared you those, just sharing his post-lunch poses.

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Using tree branch as napkin after lunch

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We were able to enjoy him for at least five minutes. After he cleaned his beak and looked down at us a few times as if to ask, “Haven’t you guys ever seen an eagle eating before?” he took to the skies, leaving us all with a profound sense of awe and gratitude for the incredible display of nature we had just shared.

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Until next time, look up occasionally, you never know what spectacle may be perched above your head!

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∼ Jen

Book Review: What Birds Teach Us

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One of my absolute favorite things to do with my children when they were young was read aloud to them.  I collected many nature books, both fiction and non, to teach my sons about the beautiful world around us, and the book What Birds Teach Us by Ashley Hewson is one I truly would love to have had in my collection. The below description of his book is taken from his site:

The author and his wife are both avid ‘recreational birders’ This interest integrated with  the author’s family counseling studies, fulfills his desire to encourage and build into the lives of our youth, so that they can make healthy life choices and do life well. 

The book is a collection of the author’s observations and photographs from his beautiful country of Australia.  I have enjoyed his blog for the past year, so I was looking forward to having a collection of his pictures and words of wisdom in book form.  The book surely did not disappoint, and in fact, exceeded my expectations in the amount of content it contained.

It is a collection of very positive words of wisdom and advice based on the traits observed by the author and his wife of the various birds they have watched in the wild.  In short, it compares the traits and habits of the various birds to different character traits we humans, both young and old, would be wise to incorporate into our own personal lives.  In fact, there are so many more character traits than the ones that would first come to a person’s mind, and that is where it truly exceeded my expectations.

My one son has pointed out to me repeatedly how much he hated Aesop’s Fables as a kid. I read it aloud to he and his brother many times and had no idea of its traumatizing effects…I guess I should have known that turtles smashed on rocks due to their pride may have been a bit too much!  I wish I had a book such as this one, to teach those positive character traits, and many more, in a much more gentle way!  Not to mention, the photographs are simply beautiful.

I really can’t recommend this book highly enough. It would be a wonderful gift for any child in your life, starting as early as age four or five and upwards. Honestly, there are even a few good reminders for adults as well-my personal favorite is the chapter on creativity. It truly is a gift that will keep on giving!!

Until next time,

∼ Jen

 

For the Love of Weeds-Pt. 2…Round-Up Pesticide, Blessing or Curse?

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Well, I certainly never thought I would do a part two on a blog post having to do with weeds, but here goes!  This post has to do with my statement about my intense dislike of Round-Up, and I have been asked to explain why I hold that opinion by fellow blogger Michelle at one of my favorite blogs, https://rabbitpatchdiary.com.  I’ll add some pretty pictures to hopefully charm it up a bit!

The material out there is vast, but I will do my best to sum it up in as brief a post as possible. I will post links at the end of this post so you can do your own follow-up studies and draw your own conclusions.  Hopefully for the sake of the environment and ultimately your health and those you love, you will reach the same conculusion as I have come to, and look for alternative methods to control weeds. When I am not pulling, this recipe  is a simple one to use and it works!

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One of my main sources for health news is Dr. Mercola, and I have read many articles relating to the dangers of Round-Up on his website alone.  I will use other sources for this post, however, to give a broader analysis of the topic.  According to the Dr. Mercola article, Monsanto is Inside Everything. this so called crop-saver is showing up in urine samples, breast-milk, blood samples, water supplies, and in the very air we breathe.

A study reported by The Detox Project reported that glyphosate, the active main ingredient in Round-Up, was found in women’s breast milk at 760-1600 times higher than the level allowed by the EU in drinking water. So the purest form of food for the tiniest among us is now contaminated by man-made killer chemicals!  Further studies showed glyphosate crosses the placental barrier with 15% reaching the fetal compartment.

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To quote Angelika Hilbeck, Ph.D., senior scientist at the Institute of Integrative Biology in Zurich:

This is reckless and irresponsible conduct in a democratic society, which still has a living memory of previous reckless chemical contaminations, such as DDT.”

Blood samples and urine samples in Canadian and US women respectively were found to be at maximum levels for urine and levels similar to the concentration found to have endocrine-disrupting effects in vitro in the blood samples.

While on the topic of embryonic health, the inert ingredient, polyethoxylated tallowamine, or POEA, in Round-Up was actually found to be more deadly than the active ingredient, glyphosate, according to the article in the Scientific American Weed-Whacking Herbicide Proves Deadly to Human Cells. In this article, evidence is shown that just because an ingredient is listed as inert-Federal law classifies all pesticide ingredients that don’t harm pests as “inert,”-doesn’t mean they aren’t necessarily biologically or toxicologically harmless. “This clearly confirms that the [inert ingredients] in Roundup formulations are not inert,” wrote the study authors from France’s University of Caen.“Moreover, the proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and even death [at the] residual levels” found on Roundup-treated crops, such as soybeans, alfalfa and corn, or lawns and gardens.

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Mother and fawn taken in Colorado Rockies

So what if you don’t use Round-Up… why should you care…doesn’t it simply disappear after it kills the weeds, isn’t it “biodegradable” like we are told in most places that sell it.

No

In 2009, a French court found Monsanto guilty of lying; falsely advertising its Roundup herbicide as “biodegradable,” “environmentally friendly” and claiming it “left the soil clean.”

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Furthermore, if you eat, you need to care…Glyphosate is sprayed on some crops right before they are harvested to help then dry out. Monsanto’s patented genes are present in about 95 percent of U.S.-grown soybeans and 80 percent of our corn.In 2014, Roundup Ready crops accounted for 94 percent of soybeans and 89 percent of corn. Between the two, these crops cover more than half of America’s farmland.  The problem is certainly not limited to America… In Argentina, where Monsanto’s Roundup has turned the country into the world’s third-largest soybean producer, a report by the Ministry of Health revealed that, between 2005 and 2009, cancerous tumors were double the national average in the areas where GMO crops are grown and agro-chemicals like Roundup are used. Now, more than 30,000 doctors and health professionals in Argentina are urging the government to ban Monsanto products. (https://draxe.com/monsanto-roundup/).

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So what exactly is Round-up ready and GMO crops?  Simply put, they are crops from seeds altered to withstand the effects of Round-up while the weeds around them die.  It is  argued that GMO crops increase food supply thereby helping to curb world hunger.  There is no evidence to prove that this is the case according to the New Soil Association in 2008. In fact not only does it not increase yield, it leads to terminator seeds-seeds that are grown for a second generation that are sterile…leading to just the opposite of increased yield. In addition to less yield, GMO corn is shown to have 18 times the safe level of glyphosate set by the EPA…I would argue there is no safe level, period.  About 75 percent of the food available at the grocery store contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs), grown from Roundup Ready crops, in particular alfalfa, corn and soy. (https://draxe.com/monsanto-roundup/)

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To help yourself and your family, look for organics and foods labeled non-GM0 whenever possible; shop at local organic farm markets if available and if you eat meat buy only  organic, 100% grass-fed or non-gmo food fed animals, ideally  from a local farmer you can get to know; on-line sites such as Vita-cost sells organic non-perishables, and they offer great sales from time to time.  Shop around, your health is worth it! A list of the top pesticide ridden foods and ones you can get by with not being organic can be found here: http://borntogrow.net/dangerous-pesticide-ridden-foods/  Also, soaking veggies and fruit in baking soda for 15 minutes can remove some of the pesticides, depending on the food, but even that labeled organic should be soaked.

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So what are some of the other affects on our health from this ignorantly loved chemical…autism, breast cancer, Parkinson’s, depression, anxiety disorders, gastrointestinal disorders and diseases, inflammatory bowel conditions, obesity, cardiovascular disease, infertility, ALS, multiple sclerosis, infertility, allergies, cancer and much more…

A very interesting chart, one that would be very hard to argue with, shows the instances of autism rates with the rise of glyphosate usage, please use the following link to see the astonishing chart as well as watch a very informative interview with Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), revealing how glyphosate wrecks havoc on human health.

::https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/06/09/monsanto-roundup-herbicide.aspx

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I am going to stop here, but trust me, this only scratches the surface!  There is so much more that can be said and explained, but this post is very long as is!! And please note, though this post is about Round-Up, pesticide use in general should be thoroughly looked into. Please see the links below, and especially read ways to avoid consuming this chemical, and many others, even if you are against using as I am.  I may add a third post for nutritional ways to combat toxins and another on the beauty and nutrition of certain weeds, inspired by Barry.

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I will say in closing, it is a shame that those of us who try to protect the earth we have been entrusted to take care of are sometimes dismissed as hippies, crazies or over-zealous earth-worshippers.  I don’t worship the earth, though my “About” picture certainly portrays me as a tree-hugger 😉  I do, however, worship the God who gave me this beautiful place to live and I believe as a Christian I am responsible even more to show gratitude for what He made and gave as a gift…this incredible creation, including ourselves, that we are to treasure and take care of.

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Until next time, please let’s all do our part…the adorable subjects in the pictures, and those in the future will be glad you did!

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∼Jen

 

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/06/09/monsanto-roundup-herbicide.aspx…Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide May Be Most Important Factor in Development of Autism and Other Chronic Disease

http://www.drmercola.com/digestive-health/glyphosate-the-celiac-causing-culprit/

http://borntogrow.net/dangerous-pesticide-ridden-foods/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/margie-kelly/genetically-modified-food_b_2039455.html

http://web.mit.edu/demoscience/Monsanto/impact.html

http://www.holistichelp.net/blog/is-roundup-weed-killer-glyphosate-affecting-your-health/

Patriarcal Shenanigans

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Daddy Cardinal feeding young

“What do you mean you were the only boy in class to not have your name written on the board for acting up….you’ve got to stop that!”

That was the advice given to my younger son during his first week of middle school, by none other than his grandfather, my father….advice my younger son gladly took to heart and seemed to make his motto throughout the rest of his school career.

Yes, amazing how the advice changes from children to grandchildren…that is a far cry from the way myself and my four siblings were raised. If a call came from school reporting an incident, it was not met with the same attitude doled out to my son, I can assure you!

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My father was one of ten children raised in the city of Baltimore, and from all accounts he was quite the little rascal.  Recently we have been treated to more stories of his youth, specifically his time in the Air Force, where the playful pranks apparently continued.  It occurs to me that the more rascally one is as a child, the more careful an eye they keep on their own children when the time comes…oh, I should have some very well-behaved grandchildren someday!

Growing up on a small farm we were were given more chores than I can remember, but I do remember hating them as a child, certain we were dealt a great injustice.  We were also given plenty of free time, however, when our chores were finished to roam the woods, climb trees, and get lost in our own daydreams or storybooks.  There were also the fun vacations spent at the beach along with the trips to New York City, Philadelphia, a Christmas spent at Disney and camping trips to the mountains.

Still, as with most children, I was sure the grass was somehow greener in my friends’ yards-no farm chores, life growing up in town…where I just knew things had to be more exciting.  And, as with most children, I didn’t appreciate the discipline, chores, or general instruction until grown and a parent myself.

So now that I am a parent, I can certainly appreciate my dad….for loving us enough to give us chores, building in us a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility; discipline when we showed lack of respect to others, especially authority figures; saying “no” to us and setting boundaries for our own protection, despite our anger or resentment at the time, because true love protects, no matter what; and most importantly of all, instilling in us a respect and awe for our loving heavenly Father.

Now that my dad has done his parental duty in raising his kids to be responsible adults, he is free to show his playful side to his grandchildren, and we all get to appreciate that other side we missed growing up. I still smile thinking of he and I in recent years on the back pew of church trying not to be seen laughing at a scene in a movie that no one else seemed to find funny. Dad and I were cracking up and adding years to our life with laughter, then, and many other times besides, both in church and out!

So dad, along with all the good characters you instilled in your children, your sense of humor and love of laughter and harmless mischief has certainly been passed down as well, and for that I am eternally grateful!  Thank you dad, I love you.

Happy Father’s Day,

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∼ Jen

A Mother’s Heart…

A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.
—Tenneva Jordan


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This is a repost from last year for technical reasons I have been dealing with and have finally fixed!  The above quote is so like my mother that I had to add it.  Happy Mother’s Day to all who are actual mothers, and all that are not but love as if they are !!!

Last night we were under torrential downpours with lightening strikes all around us and a tornado watch in effect.  Both our sons had not yet returned home for the night, but my husband and I went to bed, saying prayers for their safe return while keeping one ear open, as all parents do, when awaiting their kid’s return.

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Mother and fawn taken in Colorado Rockies

I think of my own mother, how on earth she survived raising five children, and how many nights she and my father must have prayed as they waited for their children to return home each night.

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My mom was not only a terrific mom, she was also my confidant and friend….sticking with me through thick and thin….cheering me on, encouraging me when down, and always believing in me no matter what.

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Mother northern cardinal feeding young

She was and still is a source of inspiration to myself and so many.  One of her greatest accomplishments, which still amazes me, was earning her nursing degree while raising five children.  I can still see her in my mind’s eye sitting at the table doing her homework after we finished dinner, which she had also prepared.

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Mother wood duck leading her young about the creek

Now that I have raised two sons myself, I am even more amazed at her accomplishments and am not sure which is more amazing, earning the degree or raising five children….probably the latter!

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Spectacled bear with cub, part of an effort to prevent their extinction

Eventually our first son came in with a few friends in tow, an hour later our oldest son safely returned home as well.  Both stopped in to give us big hugs before heading off to their own beds, and my mother’s heart could rest peacefully knowing my beloved treasures were back safe and sound, and all was right in my little world.

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day to my fellow mothers!

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 Until next time,

∼ Jen

Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands. Proverbs 14:1

The Beauty of Stillness

dsc_0112.jpgIt is a quiet Sunday morning as I write this.  The air is cool enough to leave the door cracked just slightly, allowing the sounds of nature to flow inside.  The birds are singing their morning songs as they flit around in their busy springtime activities.  A tufted titmouse pair are continuing their gathering of nest-building material for the box just outside my window, while a hummingbird stops to sip at the nectar feeder just below the future titmouse abode.

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Tufted titmouse gathering nesting material

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Gabby cat is enjoying an early morning walk around, simultaneously keeping a lookout  for possible adventure with one eye and the approach of our neighbor’s dogs with the other…

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Gabby amid the jewel weed

 A squirrel enjoyed an early breakfast of sunflower seeds scattered beneath the feeders before attacking the feeders directly. In due time he was joined by two other squirrels that soon gave him chase before they all raced up a tree, resembling a reverse playing of firemen sliding down a pole.

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The male cardinal is visiting another feeder closer to our pond, and the sounds of the waterfall flowing fills the air with its soothing sounds, in perfect harmony to the music of the wildlife surrounding it.

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The creek is at high-tide and is still and deceptively quiet under a misty haze and overcast sky. In the surrounding trees, the birds and squirrels make up for its silence aided by honking geese in the distance, while cinnamon ferns, jewel-weed, and iris decorate its banks as they continue to spring more to life with each passing day.  Somewhere nearby a wood duck couple are certain to be enjoying its serenity, while playful otters and busy beavers are certain to be disturbing it.

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Wood duck pair 

 At any given moment an eagle is likely to do a fly-by low along the creek, or perch in one of the nearby trees watching for fish and other small creatures to fill its stomach and feed its young.

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Harold, our resident blue heron, has yet to my knowledge made his daily appearance, but that too could happen at any given moment and may even include a sighting of  Henrietta, seen accompanying him of late…tis the season!

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“Harold”

Peaches, the cat of unknown origins, who has unfortunately decided to adopt us, draws my eye away from the creek again as he takes up one of his favorite spots beside the pond…much to the dismay of Gabby, and Bitty as well, who is perched beside me now glaring at him from her window seat.

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The cardinal seen earlier is now perched closer to my window, almost hidden in the lush leaves, until roused by a blue-jay who was earlier hopping up and down on a branch above him and making a general ruckus.  For whatever reason, Mr. Jay felt the need to antagonize the cardinal until deciding to fly off towards the creek with the cardinal giving chase.

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In a break from nest-building duties, Mr. Titmouse flies over to give his wife a morsel on a nearby branch, and the lone squirrel is back posing for a picture.

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Our door is now shut and the fireplace is lit to chase off the chill-enticing kitty with its warmth-as my husband and I enjoy the quiet of early morning.  The wood ducks paddle into view, and all seems right with the world.

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I purposefully laid aside my camera for the most part this morning-deciding to add in older pictures later-and purposed instead to just sit still and enjoy all the sights and sounds outside the lens…

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…because sometimes in our single “focused-ness’ of life we miss the peripheral beauty going on around us, and that is a lesson in and of itself.

Until next time,

∼Jen

 Psalm 46:10  “Be still, and know that I am God…”