“Almost Heaven” in the Fall

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
–  Albert Camus
 

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How does a landscape go from beautiful to spectacularly beautiful…..it gets clothed in the magnificent colors of that breathtaking season we call fall.

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In the summer, my son and I were able to enjoy some of the natural beauty the picturesque state of West Virginia has to offer… I shared a post with some of our highlights here.  I was once again able to enjoy its beauty, but this time in its fall glory, on my yearly, girl’s-weekend getaway with a few treasured friends. In this post I’ve gathered some pictures from that trip and also a few from our past fall trips; I hope you enjoy!

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Trails were marked with a kaleidoscope of colors and leaves decorated fern, moss and rocks like nature’s confetti.DSC_0087

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They softened the path as we walked and the ones that didn’t make it to the ground graced the evergreens like natural Christmas ornaments.

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The countryside was decked out in all its splendor…

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while fields of gold nourished the lingering butterflies.

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Dolly Sods was a mosaic of colors resembling nature’s quilt on one side…

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while showing off its grandeur, tinged in autumnal hues, on the mountainside.

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The many waterfalls and creeks in this state are only that much more scenic when fall is in the air…

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Douglas Falls, Thomas WV

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Blackwater Falls, Davis WV

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Mountains, valleys, creeks and rolling pastures, Autumn in West Virginia is simply spectacular!

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A special thanks to our husbands for, once again, manning the “home front” while your wives hiked the trails!

As in the last post, pictures of West Virginia wouldn’t seem complete without its most famous song…enjoy!!

 

∼ Jen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Morning Time – September

Lo! a ripe sheaf of many golden days
Gleaned by the year in autumn’s harvest ways,
With here and there, blood-tinted as an ember,
Some crimson poppy of a late delight
Atoning in its splendor for the flight
Of summer blooms and joys­
This is September.

Hilaire Belloc

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Third or fourth generation Monarch butterfly

Ah, beautiful September…how did you pass so quickly?

October is my favorite fall month, but September begins the beauty of it all.  Now that it is behind us I feel like I somehow missed it…like I blinked and it was over. I have spent many hours inside with my nose buried in math and Spanish curriculum, but on the bright side, I’m sure it’s a wonderful Alzheimer’s preventative.

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Frog basking in morning sun

I have given myself permission to take the day off from curriculum and enjoyed a walk with my dog Princess earlier this morning.  I have missed writing so much I decided I would also take the time to enjoy doing just that when I returned from the walk.  Already six days into October, it was past time to pull up my September morning-time pictures.

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Praying Mantis I discovered one morning because of kitty’s growls:)
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Another morning frog, I believe the Southern Leopard frog
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Argiope aurantia beside porch

Thinking about writing a new blog post I asked myself, like probably many bloggers do….why on earth do I think people really want to see pictures of my flowers, birds, dog, Harold….or read the ramblings and memories of a mom going through beginning empty- nest stages?

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Mother cardinal bringing sunflower seed to young
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Juvenile female cardinal
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…obviously the awkward looking stage

And yet, I continue to write, because like other bloggers I enjoy the creativity it allows and the connections formed with other bloggers along the way.  The latter was something I was told would happen by a friend of mine, whose blog I have admired for years, but I really had no idea what she meant until I started blogging myself.

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Ferns getting their fall color
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Gabby, a visual reminder to cut back ferns for sake of the birds….

I find myself thinking of the people whose writing I have connected with….the elderly widow who writes of her granddaughter and grown sons and her transition to a smaller home, leaving the place where memories were made as she raised them; the writer who has written her first book and has found a purpose to enjoy in her newfound retirement as she plans another book; the man who so artfully writes of the beauty of childhood memories and an almost forgotten time of past societal innocence; the teacher who brings nature into the lives of his young students, reminding me of my own former joy of teaching little ones; the many gifted artists in photography and drawing, who bring beauty to my world and others by sharing their talents…all these people and many more have enriched me in many ways.

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Autumn Sedum

 

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I call this my “hello-goodbye” plant…blooming when I got it and not again till September, its final show

Though I will most likely never meet any of them, I am grateful for their presence…

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My morning buddy, Harold

They have enlightened me, inspired me, entertained me, and like the nature I am surrounded by, have added beauty to my life in many different ways.

For that, I am grateful.

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Until next time,

∼ Jen

“Almost Heaven, West Virginia….

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Dolly Sods

Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River…

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Blackwater River trail

Life is old there, older than the trees,

Younger than the mountains, Blowin’ like the breeze.”

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Lindy Point

The above lyrics are from the song “Country Roads” by John Denver, and if ever a state deserved to have a song written about it for its beauty, West Virginia is certainly deserving of that honor.

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Blackwater Falls

My younger son and I were blessed to have a week to explore some of its beautiful trails, gorgeous in their own right, and leading to breathtaking views at the end. Pictures will never do it justice, but I will attempt to share bits of the beauty we enjoyed.

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Picturesque trail leading to Blackwater falls

Although Blackwater Falls (pictured above) is probably the biggest attraction, we preferred the idyllic views of:

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Not far into the hike, it felt as if we had stepped onto the set of a magical Disney film or a Lord of the Rings set.  From the moss-covered rocks and trees to the abundance of ferns, blooming rhododendrons, mushrooms, and the babbling brook leading to the waterfalls, it was truly like stepping into another world.

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Rhododendron blooms above the falls

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Large rock-island serves as a “planter” to trees, ferns, and rhododendron bushes
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Elakala Falls

Lindy Point was another place we explored. Hiking this trail was like taking a stroll through the jungle….rhododendrons hugged the path as we made our way to the top where we were met with this view:

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In the Monogahela National Forest we hiked part of the Dolly Sods Wilderness.  It boasts incredible views from the top and has terrain of bog and heath ecotypes more commonly found in southern Canada.

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The rocks are extremely fun to navigate, and the scenery is simply spectacular.  While resting on a large rock formation taking in the views, I looked to a nearby evergreen and was delighted with a sighting of one of my favorite birds, the Cedar waxwing.

It was the first time I had ever been on equal altitude with this beauty!

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The red markings on the wing tips look like melted wax, thus the name, Cedar waxwing

The drive up to Dolly Sods is quite long, but the beauty along the way makes the journey as enjoyable as the destination.  A variety of wildflowers, butterflies, and a scenic creek adorn the trek, making a non-stop drive all but impossible to a camera-wielding, nature enthusiast.

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Bristle Thistle Carduus nutans

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And, of course, what drive in the country would be complete without a good ol’ barn-sighting…or a house that looks like a barn, not sure, but charming, nonetheless.

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After a hike at dusk one evening, we saw this adorable woodland creature…

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Fawn with mother near Blackwater Falls

Growing up near the shore I will always be a fan of the ocean, but I am always grateful for a trip to the mountains where I can hike and relish a different kind of beauty…all a part of this glorious gift we have been given called nature.

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Elakala Falls

This post is dedicated to our dear friends Ed and Denise….thank you for introducing us to the beauty of this often overlooked state, but mostly for your gift of friendship!

 

For your listening pleasure, the song behind the post:

I hope you find your own country road to explore and take in the wonders around!

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∼ Jen

Sunday Thoughts…Daily Inspiration

The purpose of this blog is to provide a place of beauty, where one can escape the “craziness” of the world and focus on the beauty our gracious heavenly Father has bestowed on us. This beauty very often can be easily overlooked and overshadowed by daily headlines or personal worries. Though I have been working on a post about a recent trip to West Virginia, a re-post of this seems to be more appropriate given all the recent “activity” in the news of late.

 I sometimes re-read this post for peace and comfort, because it’s not my words, but mostly the words of the only One capable of giving “peace that passes all understanding.”  As someone once said:

“We may not know what tomorrow holds, but we know Who holds tomorrow.”

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Northern flicker

It’s a mild Sunday morning, beautiful 70 degree temperature with a few clouds promising rain later in the day. My husband and I have recently returned home from church, he enjoyed some banana-oat and I some yummy buckwheat pancakes:) We have now settled into our own little writing nooks….he is busily editing a book, and I have been thinking about today’s sermon, which was on worry. It brings many images from the Bible to my mind….some of which point to how God takes care of nature as our example.  I thought I’d add some photos with a few scriptures as my takeaway from a theme that’s good to be reminded of daily.

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Atop an Alpine in Colorado

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Mt. 6:26,27

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Wood thrush

 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Mt. 10:29-31

 The above picture is of a bird I rescued after it flew into our window.  Every time I hear a thump, which is sadly often, I race to the window to see if I can spot the victim and get to it before my cat does.  I’m amazed at how much I care for these little birds, which I had nothing to do with bringing into the earth, and then, how much more our heavenly Father cares for us!

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Butterfly finding nourishment from the daylilies
” And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?  If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?
 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Luke:25-27
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Wild grasses by the bay
If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you…Mt.6:30
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Mother cardinal checking on nest
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself…Ps.84:3
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Ps. 91:4
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Female Eastern towhee
A phrase our pastor said that really stuck out to me was…
“To worry is to imagine a time when God will not be with you.”
God has already promised us in Mathew 28:20
“And surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.”
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Bleeding Heart

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:6,7

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Eastern Phoebe enjoying a moth

Of all the beauty that our loving, heavenly father created, there is none more precious to Him than us…..

Psalm 8:3-9English Standard Version (ESV)

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings[a]
    and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

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 Happy Sunday!
∼ Jen

Confessions from the Garden

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Russian sage in front of Black-eyed Susan

It’s said that confession is good for the soul, so here goes…

I am guilty of a crime, and I committed this crime/sin with the full knowledge that what I was about to do could quite possibly kill, or at the very least, temporarily wound the innocent and unsuspecting.  I, however, could not help myself-much like a man armed with a chainsaw can’t stop until every last branch within eyesight is maimed “pruned,” I, too, was on a mission.

My crime? Transplanting a very happy plant in the dead of summer….in fact, in the middle of the worst heat wave so far this year.  What was I thinking….well, that’s just it, I wasn’t.  Much like a spoiled, rebellious, impatient child, I didn’t care about the rules-I simply defied all authority in the transplanting laws of nature. That plant simply was not where it needed to be and I wanted it elsewhere, heat wave or not. Waiting for fall was not an option.

The innocent? The one and only, beautiful beyond words, Russian Sage.

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Russian Sage

This gorgeous plant has been my favorite perennial since I planted my first flower garden way back when.  In my previous garden, I had abundant sunshine and it thrived and returned yearly like a faithful friend.  Because I am still trying to find the right spot for these to thrive at our new home, they lack the abundance of stems seen in the above picture. Mine boasts only several per plant as seen in the first picture.  For that reason, the victimized plant was moved to a much sunnier location where it will hopefully flourish and return next year to let me know all is forgiven and it is loving its new abode.

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My favorite garden picture…my then 3 year-old son, Daniel, chasing butterflies amidst the flowers- Russian Sage in the back.

In spite of the heat, or maybe even because of it, my little Russian Sage looks like it may make it after all:) In the first hour after it was transported away from its buddies, it looked very sad and wilted indeed. I watered it, of course, but then because of the intense heat, upper 90’s to be exact, I watered it two more times that day and three times a day since.

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Little sage is much perkier now with all the extra, tender-loving care, and its bounce back, despite my initial offense, reminds me of a particular verse…love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

Happy Gardening!

∼ Jen

PS….I have a new temptation in the form of a wayward Autumn Sedum. I am desperately trying to resist, but the promise of rain in the coming days may lure me towards my shovel yet!  😉

 

Mornings in May

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Blue jay beside fading azalea bush

May and October are without a doubt my two favorite months of the year.  Of course, each month has its share of beauty, but this spring and fall month, in my opinion (and my hemisphere), outshine them all. So, while we are now in the first week of June (already!), looking back on some of my special morning sightings in May helps me hold on to that spectacular month just a little bit longer!

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American Goldfinch taking an early morning sip

I’m not a morning person, by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, when we first married, my husband actually thought I must be ill because of how late I would sleep…no, I’m not divulging the hour!  I don’t sleep anywhere near that late now, but I am quite groggy for a while after rising and really don’t know what I’d do without my morning coffee.

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Mourning Doves getting a morning drink

These coffee times, as I sit and stare, and then stare some more, have proven to be some of the best times to observe much of the first stirrings of nature and the beauty of the sun’s early rays on foliage and flowers.  With my camera ever at my side, it’s rare that I ever get down a cup of coffee before it cools off, but I’m able to capture some special moments, so sometimes warm coffee will just have to do!

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Eastern gray squirrel enjoying fallen sunflower seeds

I never tire of seeing my beautiful cardinals…this was a rare picture of them together in the tree. I have only observed them together when at the feeder or ground-feeding.

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Spring is a very active time for the creek…ducks, eagles, geese, and even spawning fish keep the area very busy and very noisy if you add frogs to the mix!

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Mallard duck couple out for a morning swim

I had to chuckle to myself as I watched this male and female goose swim by.  Though not obvious in the picture, the assumed male is much ahead as the female followed slowly behind, seemingly taking in all of the delightful sights as she swam happily along, while hubby up ahead was clearly on a mission.

For whatever reason, all I could think about was how this was a great representation of what my husband and I look like when we go to the mall together!

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Finally able to get a decent picture of “cave frog,” one of our resident American bullfrogs

On the day our pond was emptied and cleaned in early May, I was able to see and count almost forty bullfrog tadpoles. I had never seen a bullfrog tadpole and was thrilled to have the opportunity to see them up close.  The pictures are a little blurry through the water, but back legs and even front stubs are visible.

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Koi, goldfish, tadpoles, and snails

Most of the sights I am able to photograph from my porch, but once the coffee kicks in, I sometimes go for a stroll to check out the latest blooms.

First blooming roses

I was never able to really grow azaleas out our old house due to lack of shade, here, they are abundant, and I eagerly look forward to their show every spring!

Columbines are another flower new to me at this home, a spring beauty for sure.

My Uncle Harry gave me my first Coral Bell plant, a favorite in my old garden for hummingbirds.  They transplanted nicely here and I also added a few more.  I have always admired their delicate beauty.

My favorite blooms, however, have to be the Bleeding hearts….these were the flowers, more than any other, that my boys liked to pick when young with their chubby little fingers to give to me.  They were as intrigued by their shape as I was and still am…I have more than one pressed from my sweet little boys from too many years ago, sigh. I tried to bring some from our old garden when we moved, but the transplant didn’t take. I quickly bought some at the local nursery and will always have a place for them in my garden.

Finally, a few last views of the creek and pond-one a real surprise that I just happened to notice crawling out of the pond as I glanced out the back window:

Yeah, he, or she was a shocker for sure!! We’re not certain who will now be sticking their hands in to clean the pond filter, but what an amazing sight! This is my first snapping turtle up close and personal…I was most thankful for a zoom lens!

I round out this beautiful month in pictures with my favorite pond inhabitant ever. He got in right under the wire, the last day of May, which also happens to be my birthday. I hadn’t seen him for at least a month, so I’m sure he and his lovely lady were just swimming by to give me a friendly birthday greeting!  They started my day off in a special way for sure!

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Male Wood Duck

                            I hope that you have enjoyed this trip down memory lane for May.  June is only four mornings old, and already is showing off its splendor, so I look forward to sharing some of my moments for this month and every month to come!

           Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love…Psalm 143:8

 

∼ Jen

Sunday Thoughts…

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Northern Flicker

It’s a mild Sunday morning, beautiful 70 degree temperature with a few clouds promising rain later in the day. My husband and I have recently returned home from church, he enjoyed some banana-oat and I some yummy buckwheat pancakes:) We have now settled into our own little writing nooks….he is busily editing a book, and I have been thinking about today’s sermon, which was on worry. It brings many images from the Bible to my mind….some of which point to how God takes care of nature as our example.  I thought I’d add some photos with a few scriptures as my takeaway from a theme that’s good to be reminded of daily.

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Atop an Alpine in Colorado

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Mt. 6:26,27

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Wood Thrush

 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Mt. 10:29-31

 The above picture is of a bird I rescued after it flew into our window.  Every time I hear a thump, which is sadly often, I race to the window to see if I can spot the victim and get to it before my cat does.  I’m amazed at how much I care for these little birds, that I had nothing to do with bringing into the earth, and then, how much more our heavenly father cares for us!

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Daylilies
” And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?  If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?
 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Luke:25-27
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Wild grasses by the bay
If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you…Mt.6:30
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Mother cardinal checking on nest
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself…Ps.84:3
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Ps. 91:4
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Female Eastern Towhee
A phrase our pastor said that really stuck out to me was…
“To worry is to imagine a time when God will not be with you.”
God has already promised us in Mathew 28:20
“And surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.”
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Bleeding Heart

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:6,7

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Eastern Phoebe enjoying a moth

Of all the beauty that our loving, heavenly father created, there is none more precious to Him than us…..

Psalm 8:3-9English Standard Version (ESV)

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings[a]
    and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

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 Happy Sunday!
∼ Jen

Spring Spectacular!

“And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.”
–  Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Sensitive Plant 

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Every year it’s the same thing.  Winter slowly dies, sometimes more slowly than others, splashes of color peak from here and there, buzzing bees emerge, birds get more chatty, a lone butterfly dances by, frogs croak,  bunnies hop….then one day you awaken, and BOOM, there it is, in all it’s dazzling glory…..SPRING!!!

<And just like every year, it never ceases to amaze me>

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“That God once loved a garden we learn in Holy writ.
And seeing gardens in the Spring I well can credit it.”
–  Winifred Mary Letts

 

∼ Jen

The Bold and Beautiful

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Last week my husband and I were sitting on the couch in the ‘nature room’….yes, that’s what I call our family room, but that’s another story…and, as usual, I was drinking coffee and staring out the window taking it all in.  Suddenly, something white caught my eye sitting on one of the larger logs on the other side of the creek. It was low tide, so the fallen logs in the creek were quite visible, and evidently, perch-worthy.

There is a large, white cat that stalks our pond for fish, entertaining our indoor cat, and terrorizing our outside cat – who, I have to say, I really thought was tougher than that.  I started wondering how on earth she was able get across the creek and onto that log. I’ve yet to see her take a dip in our pond, so I was sure, like any cat, she wasn’t about to cross that creek, though sometimes I kinda wish she would.  DSC_0086

My curiosity was piqued! I quickly grabbed my camera to zoom in on this white thing, and as soon as I did, began snapping as quickly as my finger would allow!

 

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Yes, very blurry indeed:(  But, no problem, I would just go out quietly on the back porch, walk down a little closer to the creek, zoom in, and have an incredible picture!!  I couldn’t believe he was just perched right there for the snapping!  I had seen bald eagles fly up and down the creek on occasion, especially during the spring, but never have I had a photographic opportunity present itself like this, with the bold beauty himself!

I was wrong…on both counts. The better picture was not to be, and the eagle was anything but bold!! The second I very quietly opened the porch door and dared put one foot outside, this fierce, “bold” beauty darted for the skies! Are you kidding me??!!?? I just knew my presence that far away would go totally unnoticed. What threat did this big guy think I could possibly pose?  Oh well, back to the couch, and my coffee, muttering my utter disbelief as I went.

Weeks later, spring is in full bloom, and I discover who the really bold and beautiful ones are:)

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Black Swallowtail Butterfly
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Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

These delicate, winged beauties happily floated from flower to flower, seemingly oblivious to my hovering intrusion.  Now that’s bold, and oh so beautiful!

Happy spring!

∼Jen

Oh, not to despair, I soon got another chance at that big, bold rascal!

Birds, Blooms and all things Beautiful

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 Welcome! I am so excited to finally be the “owner” of a blog dedicated to the beauty of nature God so wondrously and artistically crafted. After moving into our present home, which I call a nature-lovers paradise, my husband and I quickly realized it would be negligent, maybe even criminal, not to upgrade to a camera that does not also make phone calls.  Since purchasing the camera, I have loaded down my computer with literally thousands of photos, (not all postworthy!) so a blog seemed the perfect place to share these pictures and write about my love of nature.

Now then, how does a technical illiterate such as myself go about creating a blog?? Well, luckily for me, one of the beautiful things in my life is a very talented techno hubby! He is also what you call a “get it done now” kinda guy, whereas I am very much the procrastinator…..so, thanks to him, I’m up and running!

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I hope you’ll join me and together we can leave the business of life behind for a while and just enjoy the wonders and beauty that daily surrounds us!

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♥Jen